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There's a lot of confusion on the Internet, including on SuperUser, about guest accounts in Windows 10. I've posted this question in order to post an answer based on my research on the subject.

I won't accept my answer right away, but will wait a while to allow others to weigh in, and if someone posts a better answer, I'll accept that.

The question is: What's up with guest accounts in Windows 10? Can I have one?

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The short answer:

There is a guest account in Windows 10, but it's not suitable for use on a standalone computer.

In other words:

If your computer is not part of a network, then no, you cannot have a guest account.

The long answer:

As of Windows 10 v 1607, the guest account became part of the configuration of “shared PC mode” [Microsoft, TechTarget, Windows Club]. That mode is a complex configuration intended for IT professionals to set up computers dedicated to shared use. It is not suitable for a standalone computer whose owner wants to allow occasional guest use. That's because a standalone computer needs to have a local administrator account, and local administrator accounts are not recommended for computers set up for shared use, which is what is now needed to have a properly configured guest account. (See MS documentation, Guidance for accounts on shared PCs, which says “We recommend no local admin accounts on the [shared] PC to improve the reliability and security of the PC.”)

The bottom line:

Owners of standalone Windows 10 computers who want to set up a guest account to maintain security when allowing a friend to use their computer are out of luck.

Here are some more details about the status of the guest account on a standalone computer:

After v 1607, the guest account still exists, but is disabled. It is included in the list of accounts obtained by:

  • DOS command net user
  • “Computer Management > System Tools > Local Users and Groups > Users”

Before v 1607, there were four ways to enable the guest account:

  • Go to “Control Panel > User Accounts > Manage Accounts > Guest”. Select “Turn on”.
  • Go to “Local Group Policy Editor (GPedit.msc) > Local Computer Policy > Computer Configuration > Windows Settings > Security Settings > Local Policies > Security Options > Accounts: Guest account status > Properties”. Click “Enabled”.
  • In DOS as admin, enter net user guest /active:yes.
  • Go to “Computer Management > System Tools > Local Users and Groups > Users > Guest > Properties”. Uncheck “Account is disabled”.

As of v 1903, the first method was/is no longer possible because “Manage Accounts” does not show the account “Guest”. The other three methods were/are possible to execute, but it has been reported that doing so either has no effect or causes serious system malfunctions [Digital Citizen, SuperUser comment, SuperUser answer, SuperUser comment].

I found a SuperUser answer starting with, “Here's what I did on Windows 10 to provide a user login for some visiting guests.” I did what it said, and got access errors.

  • (Note about the previous link: This is to a question I posted on SuperUser about the problem. It was "deleted" after a few months because it had a downvote and no answer. It's not actually deleted, but is hidden from most people. There is a mechanism to undelete it if it is deemed worth keeping alive. So it would be good if some people who have the right authority would take a look and see if that link ought to be allowed to work.)

Some of the wrong or misleading information on the Internet about guest accounts in Windows 10:

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    Great research! @NewSites – Moab Feb 19 '20 at 15:25

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