I just made to switch from Windows XP to Windows 7. One interesting security feature in both Windows 7 and Vista is the Windows UAC (User Account Control), which is designed to prevent basic users and malicious programs from changing system critical settings.
This results in a lot of prompts popping up when launching many apps or performing some operations asking whether you wanted to allow these processes (that may make changes to your system) to proceed.
This post will outline how to get rid of these security prompts without switching off the UAC altogether, by using a free app called TweakUAC to switch the UAC to “quiet mode”.
There is always a tradeoff between defense mechanisms and quality of life. You may be more secure if you walled off your house completely yet might end up concealing what might be a nice view, and if you never risked rejection you might never start a romance with someone you really like, etc.
This is basically how I feel about the UAC in Vista and Windows 7: a well-meaning device that basically costs too much in terms of the quality of the user experience. What’s more, the presumed protection that the UAC provides is very debatable (see below).
The rest of this article will consist of 4 sections as follows:
- Why UAC does NOT work
- Why UAC does work
- A definition of the UAC quiet mode
- How to enable quiet mode using TweakUAC
1. Why UAC does NOT work: in a nutshell, because you do not listen to the boy that cries “wolf”. The frequency of these security prompts makes them essentially useless. If in 99.9% of instances I am being asked to give permission to safe apps and processes how can I be expected to take note of the 0.1% of the time when it may not be wise? This seems to me like a classic case of technologists forgetting that their users are human beings.
Moreover, the UAC is really intended to protect you from yourself. In itself it is not adequate security and you still need to have the usual arsenal of protection software (an antivirus, antispyware, and possibly firewall).
2. Why UAC does work: it works because, after reading up on the subject it seems that the primary impetus behind UAC is probably a policy decision by Microsoft intended to force developers to create applications that only require standard user rights. My guess is that in the long run this objective will have some measure of success, but it only reinforces the idea that as a normal user in the here-and-now it would be a good idea to simply get rid of UAC. Or at least to switch it to “quiet” mode.
3. A definition of the UAC quiet mode: the so-called UAC quiet mode offered by TweakUAC suppresses the elevation prompts of UAC without turning the UAC off completely. The following is a direct quote from the TweakUAC web site:
“In such a mode, you keep all the positive effects of UAC, such as Internet Explorer operating in the protected mode, applications starting without the administrative privileges by default, etc. The only thing that gets changed is that you will no longer see the infamous “Windows needs your permission to continue” messages whenever you attempt to make a change to your Vista configuration, or when you run a program that needs administrative rights.”
(Note: click here to visit the original page where this text was found)
In addition, quiet mode seems to disable prompts in your administrator account while maintaining these in other user accounts.
4. How to enable quiet mode using TweakUAC:
Go to the TweakUAC program page; download, install, and run. Select “Switch UAC to quiet mode” and click ok (you will not need to reboot). UAC prompts from this point onward will not appear, but the UAC is not completely switched off and preserves some measure of protection as defined above..