Fast User Switching

November 19, 2009

A Windows computer can have one or more Windows Login ID’s. If you turn your computer on and you get a blue screen with different names you can click on to login to windows, then you have more than one Windows User. Some versions require you to press Control-Alt-Delete and enter a Windows User ID.

If you never see a screen like that, then you probably only have one Windows User ID. If you have more than one Windows User on your computer, there is a feature you need to be aware of. It’s called Fast User Switching.

Let’s say your name is John and you go to your computer to use it. You notice that your wife Sue is currently logged in under her Windows User. So you want to switch to your Windows User ID since that is where all of your stuff is. You have two options here. You can logoff Sue and login to John, or  you can switch users from Sue to John.

If you logoff Sue, Sue won’t be logged in anymore. Then you can login as John. Any programs Sue was running will no longer be running. Switch user, on the other hand, leaves Sue logged in. It leaves all of her programs running too. It allows you to login as John without logging Sue off.

This sounds like a really cool feature, and it is. The advantage to using Switch User is that you can login as a different user without messing up with the other was doing. When you are done, you can logoff or switch back to Sue and everything will be the way it was when  Sue was logged in. But Switch User has a very bad side effect. And it’s a big side effect for many computers. Every user that is logged in takes up a significant amount of computer resources. In a nutshell, it will slow your computer down. If you have the latest greatest fast running computer, it might not be too bad. But for most computers, especially older ones, using Switch User will really slow down your computer.

I went to an appointment once where a guy was complaining that his computer was dog slow. The computer had six Windows users and every single one of them was logged in because they always used Switch User. I logged all of the users off and the computer was fast again.

In order to avoid slowing down your computer, you should use logout instead of Switch User.

If you want, you can disable Switch User.
In XP:

1.       Click on Start and then Control Panel.

2.       Double-click on Users

3.       Click on “Change the way users log on or off”

4.       Now click to remove the checkmark next to “Use Fast User Switching”

5.       Click OK and exit the user settings.

In Vista and Windows 7 there really isn’t an easy way to disable it. To disable it, you have to use the Group Policy Editor or edit the Windows Registry which I don’t recommend most people try since you can really mess Windows up if you do the wrong thing there. We can do that for you or you can just make sure everyone always uses Logoff instead of Switch User. 

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