The User Account Control (UAC) has been a core security feature of Windows since Windows Vista. Some people are not even aware of its existence. They only meet a prompt which says “Do you want to allow this app to make changes to your PC?” and then they click Yes blindly, without analyzing what’s up with that. If you encounter such prompts and you want to change how often they are shown, learn What is UAC (User Account Control) and How to change the UAC level in Windows.
What is UAC ( User Account Control ) in Windows?
UAC is a security feature of Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 which helps prevent unauthorized changes to your computer. These changes can be initiated by applications, viruses or other users. User Account Control makes sure these changes are made only with approval from the administrator. If the changes are not approved by the administrator, they are not executed and Windows remains unchanged.
How Does User Account Control (UAC) Work?
In modern editions of Windows, applications run by default without any administrative permissions. They have the same permissions a normal user account has: they cannot make any changes to the operating system, its system files or the machine’s registry settings. Also, they cannot change anything that’s owned by other user accounts. Applications can change only their own files and registry settings.
When an application wants to make a system change like: modifications which affect other users, modifications of system files and folders, installation of new software, an UAC prompt is shown, asking for permission.
(UAC Windows 7)
(UAC in Windows 8)
If the user clicks or taps No, the change won’t be performed. If the user clicks or taps Yes, the application receives administrative permissions and it is able to make the system changes it requires. These permissions are given only until the application stops running or it is closed by the user.
Open the User Account Control (UAC) settings in Windows:
Changing the way UAC works is done from the User Account Control Settings window. There are many ways to open this window:
One method is to start the Control Panel and go to “System and Security -> Action Center -> Change User Account Control settings”.
In Windows 10, open the search box on the taskbar and type the word “uac”. Then, click or tap the search result that says “Change User Account Control settings”.
In Windows 8.1, you can type the word “uac” directly on the Start screen. In the list of search results, click or tap“Change User Account Control settings”.
In Windows 7, open the Start Menu, type the word “uac” into its search box and click the “Change User Account Control settings” search result.
The User Account Control Settings window is now opened.
How to configure User Account Control (UAC) level in Windows:
The User Account Control Settings window has a slider that you can use to adjust the UAC settings. By default, in Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10, User Account Control is set to notify you only when programs and desktop apps try to make changes to your computer.
You can switch between any of the four available levels: “Always notify”, “Notify me only when programs/apps try to make changes to my computer”, “Notify me only when programs/apps try to make changes to my computer (do not dim my desktop)” and “Never notify”.
Different UAC Levels in details:
→ Always notify – at this level you are notified before applications and users make changes that required administrative permissions. When an UAC prompt shows up, the desktop is dimmed as shown in the screenshot below. You must choose Yes or No before you can do anything else on the computer. Security Impact: this is the most secure setting and the most annoying. If you did not like the UAC implementation from Windows Vista, you won’t like this level.
→ Notify me only when programs/apps try to make changes to my computer – this is the default level and UAC notifies you only before programs make changes that require administrative permissions. If you manually make changes to Windows, then a UAC prompt is not shown. This level is less annoying as it doesn’t stop the user from making changes to the system, it only shows prompts if an application wants to make changes. When an UAC prompt is shown, the desktop is dimmed and you must choose Yes or No before you can do anything else on your computer. Security Impact: this is less secure than the first setting because malicious programs can be created to simulate the keystrokes or mouse movements made by a user and change Windows settings. However, if you are using a good security solution, such scenarios should not occur.
→ Notify me only when programs/apps try to make changes to my computer (do not dim my desktop) – this level is identical to the one above except the fact that, when a UAC prompt is shown, the desktop is not dimmed and other programs are able to interfere with it. Security Impact: this level is even less secure as it makes it easy for malicious programs to simulate keystrokes or mouse moves that interfere with the UAC prompt.
→ Never notify – at this level, UAC is turned off and it doesn’t offer any protection against unauthorized system changes. Security Impact: if you don’t have a good security solution you are very likely to encounter security issues with your PC. With UAC turned off it is much easier for malicious programs to infect your computer and take control.
To switch to another level, simply move the slider to the appropriate position and click or tap OK. Depending on the previous UAC level that was set, you may receive a User Account Control prompt, asking you to confirm this change.
As you can see from this guide, changing User Account Control levels is very easy, in all modern versions of Windows. The available levels provide enough flexibility and customization, so that you can keep your Windows device safe, without being too annoyed by the UAC prompts that are shown.