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Till now we were having only 1 user in Windows 7. But some days back my stupid brother formatted D: when he wanted to format USB drive in E:, which made me lose lot of important data.

Now I am updating to Windows 8 and want to ask – how can I set up Microsoft Accounts to allow me all activity but stop my brother from formatting? (If possible maybe he can format USB drive only.)

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A backup(!) solution would be to take regular backups. Then, if he does format the wrong drive again you can restore your data. It will also guard against theft and damage to your drives as well – ChrisF Nov 2 '12 at 13:07
Beat him severely and break all his fingers... that should fix it... oh and like @ChrisF regular backup would be the best option – TheXed Nov 2 '12 at 13:13
Set up a guest account. And do not belittle your brother in public as someday you may deeply regret every disparaging thing you've said about him. – Snesticle Nov 2 '12 at 13:18
If he has physical access to the computer you can't stop him. Whatever walls you erect on Windows, he can simply bypass them entirely with a Linux live CD/USB. – badp Nov 2 '12 at 13:18
@User: Recuva is not a magic bullet. There are a whole host of factors that might interfere with data recovery after a format, incuding how much he has used the drive/partition since then. As ChrisF said, nothing makes you a believer of regular backups like data loss! – Karan Nov 2 '12 at 17:32
up vote 15 down vote accepted

You can create a limited (regular) user account for him.

Only Administrators can format disk drives.
Therefore he won't be able to format a drive. Formatting USB drives also requires Administrator privileges.

There are no special privileges for formatting in Windows: all or nothing. So you can't select drives where formatting is allowed.

Beware: non-Administrator user account imposes other restrictions as well: installing software (desktop), changing global system settings…

I was thinking about other ways on how to prevent drive formatting. (Although these options are more about making it harder to see the drive, as a side effect you get the bonus of preventing formatting.)

  1. Hide the drive from Explorer, as User suggested. The drive is not visible in Explorer interface but it's accessible through the system. Other application may show it. And you can easily get access to it: type D:\ in the address bar, and here you go.
  2. Hide the drive entirely, remove drive letter association.
    1. Click Manage in the context menu of Computer.
    2. Select Disk Management in the list of options on the left.
    3. Right-click the box with drive D: (or any other) and then click Change drive letter and path.
    4. Select D: and click Remove button.
      To restore it, click Add and assign a drive letter.
  3. Remove Format command from drive context menu. Yet I haven't found a way to do it.

When you remove drive letter as described in option 2, no one can access the drive in Windows. You have to add a drive letter to use it.

Yet there's alternative: you can mount the drive into a folder.
In the dialog from step 2.4, click Add, click Mount in the following empty NTFS folder, and type the path to the folder or click Browse to select it.

This way the drive can't be accessed via a drive letter (if it's unassigned of course), but all the data from the disk is visible in the folder.

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So he will call me every time to format USB drives? Is there a better idea? – Jörg Nov 2 '12 at 13:25
@Jörg I guess there's no better solution. Does he often format USB drives? – Alexey Ivanov Nov 2 '12 at 13:29
He is often copying data from to the PC and back. I don't know how often he formats, but I don't want him coming and pestering me every time. I know sometime it will happen that I am not there, and then I will be forced to give him the Administrator password. – Jörg Nov 2 '12 at 16:26
Can I at least allow him to install software? If there are too many restrictions then he will complain and I will be forced to give him access. – Jörg Nov 2 '12 at 16:29
Don't forget to password protect all the admin accounts! Use good passwords and don't let the stupid brother have them. – Moab Nov 2 '12 at 18:03

You can also hide the drives from My Computer that you don't want him to format. If you need to access the hidden drives, you will just need to type the drive's letter in the File Explorer's address bar.

If he is not a geek, he will not know how to unhide the drive or format them using Disk Management.

This will let him format only the drives that you want.

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Thank you for the tip, it may also help. I will see if it works in Windows 8. – Jörg Nov 2 '12 at 16:30

Another option might be to give him a different utility for formatting drives - you can detect the type of drives fairly easially with vbscript, C#, and other .net languages and restrict formatting to removable media, usb drives, etc.

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