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I have a Windows XP computer at work, which does not have administrator privileges. Normally the IT department has to give me permission every time I want to install a program, but today I was able to install JabRef on my own.

As a beginner, I don't really understand how that could work, but I am quite curious! Can anybody explain why some programs can be installed without administrator privileges?

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Did you actually install it or was it a portable application? This is a better question pointed towards your IT staff. –  Ramhound Aug 27 '13 at 15:55

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A program "installation" consists of writing some files and perhaps writing some Registry entries. If those writes are made to locations in your user folders and your user Registry hive, there is no need for administrative access. A program's executable files can be located anywhere.

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Certain directories and programs are protected by the system to that they can only be written to by users with a certain level of permission (e.g. Administrators).

It's possible that your program did not write to such a directory (e.g. C:\Program Files) or invoke such a program (e.g. regedit, to modify your registry).

It's also possible - if you are on an Active Directory environment - your IT department has allowed certain programs to install or allowed you to install programs in certain circumstances - either intentionally or by mistake. The policies set by your IT department are pushed out to your machine invisibly, so you wouldn't be aware anything had changed.

Your best bet is to contact your IT department and notify them. Not only will they likely be able to explain it, but if you've found a security risk they can likely identify and fix it.

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There are many different examples of this in Windows OS. If the program doesn't evoke the administrator, or the administrator group then it will not need to be installed by an admin. If the program doesn't make changes to the system in anyway. The other possibility is that, the IT department forgot to remove your permissions to install software.

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There is no UAC in Windows XP, so it's irrelevant. –  kreemoweet Aug 27 '13 at 16:26
    
@kreemoweet good point –  nate Aug 27 '13 at 18:58

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