When my friend was in town recently, he asked to use my computer to do some research. I just handed him my laptop, but later worried what I had done. What if he poked around in my documents or email, and found things I didn’t care for him to see? Is there some way to avoid this problem in the future?
Both PCs and Macs support a built-in guest user, allowing you to grant access to the internet, and basic file handling, without granting access to any of your content, when you let someone borrow your computer. Guest accounts can’t install applications or configure hardware devices, so it’s unlikely that someone logged in as a guest could hurt your computer or find anything private.
On the other hand, because guest users can browse the Web, they certainly can get your computer infected with a virus, just as easily as you can yourself!
The trick is to first ensure that the guest account is enabled on your computer. On a Mac, go to System Preferences, then Users & Groups, and enable the Guest User if currently disabled.
On a Windows 7 or 8 computer, it’s really easy: from the Start menu, type “user accounts”. Click on “User Accounts” in the search results, and from this window, click “Manage another account.” Click “Guest”. If necessary, click “Turn On.”
In Windows 10, it’s a lot more complicated. You’ll find the details here: [https://goo.gl/HwUXRV]. It’s not a difficult process, but it does require a few steps. It’s hard to know exactly why Microsoft made it more obscure to enable a guest user (called a Visitor in Windows 10), but the linked article makes it clear how to proceed.
No matter which operating system you’re using, handing a friend your laptop while logged into your own account is a bad idea. First, log out, and then have them in as the guest/visitor user, and you’ll feel a lot safer!