My friend has two HP desktop computers running Windows XP (SP3) in his living room and entertains many, many guests daily. Guests who do not usually carry laptop/netbook with them are allowed access to these computers and their internet connections without much supervision. Most of said users are very respectful of their privileges and limit their usage mostly to checking emails, updating Facebook/MySpace/Twitter, etc., or playing games (either already installed or online) without downloading more apps and toolbars or worse. I have for months been acting as an ad hoc administrator, handling antivirus/malware scanning, updates, fixing crashes. I am by no stretch of the imagination an IT guy, but have managed to maintain my own computers for years with relative ease and few catastrophic problems.
I now enjoy a fancy HP laptop with windows 7 64 bit and paid maintenance subscriptions (antivirus/spyware/warranty) on which I rarely have guests accessing it. On those few occasions when someone else uses my laptop, win 7 provides easy to use user account controls for which I may easily setup multiple accounts with varied levels of permissions. XP, however, at least as far as I have been able to determine, provides no such degree of utility or ease over multiple logins.
My idea is to assign usernames to frequent guests with passwords and some sort of limited permissions to access or modify settings/apps/networking. Does anyone know of utilities to achieve this other than the default admin/guest accounts? Even at this level, guests may access most areas that admins can, with very few critical exceptions. Perhaps there is some 3rd party app that offers some sort of virtualized access control?
Aside from this, I would also like to limit access time with either auto logoffs or auto shutdowns from which only the admin account can recover. Can someone please point me in the right direction?
You have extensive user account controls in XP, almost like in Win7, but defaults might have been changed if guest account can access as much as you claim.
Go to control panel to create new accounts, and just create the users that you need/want.
let them have ordinary user access (no admin rights), and the defaults should prevent them from installing almost all programs (some browsers are exceptions).
All portable apps can usually run on the guest account unless you disable it, and there are some very power-full portable apps that can mess with the registry, and the defaults - so I can't promise that it will be enough to solve your problems.
If you type "control userpasswords2" in the "run" in start menu - you get to the user account control panel - use right click for options to create new users etc.
Keep an eye out for the "advanced" buttons and tab's to see the options, and also try to right click on anything for various menu's. ;)