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Macintosh Reference Guide

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Last updated Feb 25, 2005.

Mac OS X is specifically designed to accommodate multiple users on a single computer, although only one person at a time can have hands on the keyboard, of course. With earlier versions of the Mac operating system, you could share a computer among many users, but it was up to each individual to manually safeguard files from other users, and there was no way to prevent one user from making system-wide changes that affected all other users. In contrast, Mac OS X gives each user his or her own home directory, with its contents protected from other users. Likewise, it's possible for each user to customize system preferences (provided that the administrator allows such changes). Perhaps best of all, with the advent of Mac OS X 10.3, you can switch users without logging out or restarting...a real time-saver!

If you're a network administrator in a large organization, you're probably familiar with the benefits of separate user accounts. But if you're a casual Mac user in a home environment, you may think that all this talk of user accounts is confusing and unnecessary. To be sure, it's a new concept for long-time Mac users, but it's really very straightforward and provides many benefits, even if you're the only user of your computer.