While sharing a computer isn’t a big deal for the device, it can be challenging for the people using it. Many people on a single device means that your settings could change, unwanted apps might be added, while some apps you do want might be deleted. Other users could see your documents or email or delete important files. Even if everyone sharing the device is trustworthy, accidents can still happen.

Creating individual user accounts on Windows 10

Creating individual user accounts and unique sign-ins on Windows 10 allows everyone to benefit from customized personalization and security settings, private file storage, and access to a shared file storage area. And everyone’s “version” of Windows 10 keeps their emails, apps, pictures, and documents private and secure.

If you’re a parent, there’s an added benefit: You can set up separate user accounts that allow you to monitor and control your children’s online time and activities.

Setting up additional accounts is easy. You’ll need everyone’s email address, ideally the one they use for their Microsoft account. Don’t have someone’s info? You can set up an account now and ask them to update it later.

Add someone else to this PC

Say you’d like to create an individual user account for your daughter, Grace.

If you have Grace’s Microsoft account email address, enter it under How will this person sign in? If the address is recognized as a Microsoft account, you’re done, and Grace has her own account on the device.

How will this person sign in

If Grace doesn’t have a Microsoft account, you can create a “local account” for her, which will let her sign in to the device you’re using, but won’t include certain Windows 10 apps and capabilities such as Skype, Office, or Outlook, or synchronization of settings across different devices. That said, Grace can always convert her local account to a Microsoft account later.

To create a “local account” select I don’t have this person’s sign-in information.

Add a user without a Microsoft account

Under Let’s create your account you can create a Microsoft account for Grace. Otherwise, select Add a user without a Microsoft account.

If Grace isn’t available to choose her own sign-in info, you can create a password for her and she can change it to something she prefers later. Select Next to finish, and you’re all set.

Create an accounte for this PC

Signing in

The next time you start Windows, the welcome screen will display the user names of everyone with an account on that device. Select your account and enter your sign-in details to access it. You can now personalize your account to look and work the way you want—as can every other person with an account on that device. If you have a Microsoft account, your personalization settings should appear when the device is connected to the internet. Plus, you can choose your own sign-in method, including changing your password or using a sign-in without a password.

How to securely end your session

How you end each session is just as important to security as how you sign in. If you just walk away from the computer when you’re done, your account will be open for anyone to use. Here are some simple ways to end a computer session that protect your account while ensuring that other people using the device can easily sign in.

  • Lock the device: Press the Windows logo key + L to lock the device. Your account stays “active,” and the next time you sign in, everything will be just as you left it. When the device gets unlocked, usually just by pressing a key or moving the mouse, the welcome screen will appear allowing another user can sign in. You should lock the device whenever you step away from the computer—even if you think you’ll be the next one to use it.
  • Switch user: Press Ctrl + Alt + Del, and then select Switch user. This immediately opens the welcome screen allowing the next person to sign in. This is a courteous way to sign out when someone is waiting to sign in after you. If you arrive at the computer to find that it’s signed in to someone else’s account and they’re not around to sign out, you’ll be practicing good computer-sharing etiquette by using the Switch user function to sign out of their account and sign in to your own.

Once everyone has their own accounts, you can all rest easy knowing that your files, apps, browser favorites, settings, and other important items, are saved. You’re free to personalize your computer and try out new tools and features that work without affecting anyone else. You can even set up your own OneDrive account to avoid taking up space on your shared computer’s hard disk. After that, the only problem remaining is how to schedule your time on the device!