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I do not quite understand how Windows (specifically Windows XP) handles accounts with/without passwords.

As far as I can see, on a fresh Windows XP install I have one default account which

  • has admin rights
  • does not have a password
  • will auto-login (without password prompt) when the computer boots

What happens if I set a password for this account? Will it still auto-login? Or will it always prompt for the PW?

And generally, what consequences does it have if I set a password? I noted that Scheduled Tasks apparently cannot run under an account w/o password (creating a scheduled task will prompt for the account PW). Is there anything that will not work with a password set? Why is it even possible to have accounts without a password?

I have some Unix/Linux background, but the concepts appear a little different under Windows.

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5 Answers 5

up vote 2 down vote accepted

The other consequence, is that your account can be used to connect to the computer over the network. By default, Windows XP (and later), accounts with no password cannot be used to access the computer from the network. So it closes off any external attacks; in that way it is better than an account with a weak password.

For that reason it is sometimes recommended to have user accounts with no password at all.

As for why I can see a number of reasons:

  1. Windows XP was the transition for mainstream users from Win 9x that didn't have any passwords.
  2. Some people could be confused by having a password (or the whole idea of accounts), forgetting the password, etc.
  3. The computer doesn't need a password. That is there is nothing important enough to protect. (And due to the network lockout, it can only be accessed physically. If that's a home machine it means that the attacker is already in your house)
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(3.) The butler did it. –  ldigas Jan 2 '10 at 15:57
    
Interesting, so an account w/o a password would be more or less equivalent to a locked account under Unix/Linux (the only exception being that the account will still auto-login on startup). –  sleske Jan 3 '10 at 0:54
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if you set a password you can still use auto-logon.

Start > Run > type control userpasswords2 and click OK

clear the Box Users must enter user name and password to use this computer and pick the account you wish to auto-logon.

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Good answer. Wish I could accept this as well. Not that you really need the reputation points ;-). –  sleske Jan 4 '10 at 11:30
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Scheduled Tasks can run just fine on an account without a password. When you're prompted for the password, press Enter.

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If you set a password, it will (naturally) always ask for it. However, on my installation (with integrated SP2) it always asks to click on username, regardless of whether it has a pass or not, so that depends, obviously maybe.

However, if you wish to use auto login feature, it can be set.

Unless, it is your home machine, which only you have access on, I would generally suggest putting on a password. At least something simple which you can type in a quick one handed stroke (like trew or something like that).

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That's because you have multiple users. –  Hello71 Jul 15 '10 at 21:35
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By default the new accounts you create don't have password, with the exception of the Administrator account.

When you start Windows XP for the first time, it is expected to create a password for that account. It's just a different way of doing things.

If you set a password it will not auto login, unless you specifically ask it. (something which in my opinion makes no sense).

You will need to click on the username and then will be asked for a password.

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well, it does make sense if you have multiple password protected accounts on a machine but you want to automatically login one specific account all the time. –  Molly7244 Jan 2 '10 at 15:18
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protected by slhck Sep 22 '11 at 10:39

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