Taking Control

July 4, 2020

Those of a more cynical nature may call it Microsoft covering their bum and passing the buck.

Others may argue that it is a sensible way to help prevent malicious software from getting onto your computer.

Either way, if you have ever installed a program in Windows in the last ten years, you will have experienced UAC or User Access Control.

User Access What?

While you would have seen this security feature, you would have most probably either taken little notice or way too much notice of it when it appeared.

Before I go into why both actions may cause issues, and how best to deal with it, let me explain a little more about UAC.

It all started in the early 2000s when Microsoft got a good telling off regarding the lack of security in Windows XP.

The Internet was taking off, and viruses and malicious software were starting to spread wildly. Windows XP, at that time, wasn’t as secure as it should have been, and it caused a bit of a ruckus. Antivirus companies started to make good money, and Microsoft improved things with a big update called Service Pack 2. It wasn’t, however, until the next release of Windows – Vista – that we saw the inclusion of UAC.

Over The Top

After the security issues of Windows XP, Microsoft decided that Vista must be as secure as possible. One of those measures was UAC. User Access Control works on the principle that if you are installing something or changing any settings, it will pop-up a message to warn you of the fact before you go ahead with it.

Vista was a bit excessive in its use of UAC, and it felt that anything you did, a damn box would appear asking you if it was OK to do it.

And this is where the cynic will note that Microsoft was saying, “Hey, you’re about to do something on this computer if it turns out to be a virus, it not our fault. We warned you.”

In truth, it was – and still is – a nudge to make you aware something is happening that could be a problem. If you aren’t involved with it or aren’t aware of it, it may be best not to let it happen.

An Improvement

Vista was over the top with UAC, and anybody who had the pleasure of using that version of Windows will most probably have got blasé and clicked Yes in the box to allow the change without taking too much notice. Not ideal, of course, as harmful programs could be installed.

Recent versions of Windows improved on UAC, so it wasn’t so much in your face, but it still appears when needed.  And this can lead to another problem.

If you haven’t needed to change settings or update or install new software often, to see a box warning suddenly of changes to your computer, can be worrying. At this point, some people click No and then the program or update doesn’t happen. Others ring me in a state of panic, concerned they have a virus or worse.

So this blog is here to make you more aware of UAC and what to do if it appears.

The Best Way

If you see a box that looks something like this:

First, take a deep breath and then ask the following questions:

1. What am I doing on the computer at the moment? Have I just asked for an app to update? Am I installing a new program? Or changing a setting?

2. If the above is true, what is the program name or setting name shown within the UAC box? Is it connected in any way with what I am doing?

3. If points 1&2 are true, then click Yes in the box.

4. If neither is true, then click No in the box.

Any questions on this on anything else, please get in touch