Understanding User Account Control (UAC) in Windows

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Windows 10, the pinnacle of Microsoft's operating systems, unveiled a remarkable security advancement referred to as User Account Control (UAC). This cutting-edge system stands as an indispensable guardian, shielding your computer against potential threats from malicious software and unsanctioned alterations to the system. Within the confines of this feature, we shall delve into the essence, advantages, and intricate workings of UAC, enabling you to harness the full potential of this formidable security attribute. Let's get started and learn about using UAC on our Windows machines. Here we go!

A CCTV painting on a wall

After going through this beginner's guide, you'll able to understand the importance of User Account Control (UAC), and how you can use it to keep your Windows PC—secure and healthy.

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Remember, if you're using an old Windows version (before Windows Vista), you may not find this feature on your system. So, make sure you use a modern Windows PC to use this feature.

What Is User Account Control (UAC) in Windows?

Starting from Windows Vista, Microsoft introduced a security feature known as User Account Control (UAC) which ensures that apps and other software do not get free or unauthorized access to critical system resources.

User Access Control (UAC) enforces security check by prompting for credentials or consent whenever a piece of software trigger an administrative action in the system.

It acts as an alert system for the user to approve an administrative action. Although, what exactly an app may do—with the system—is unknown to a general user, prompting him about it can significantly reduce the invocation of an unknown or malicious app.

The Purpose and Advantages of User Account Control (UAC)

As mentioned before, User Account Control adds a layer of protection to your system to ensure sensitive or critical system resources aren't accessed by apps—unchecked. Some of the primary benefits of using this protection system are:

  • User Awareness: Notifying users about a change in system settings creates awareness. It helps in preventing inadvertent changes that are critical for the smooth functioning of your PC. It also helps in making informed decisions when it comes to allowing apps to make system-level changes.
  • Privilege Checks: The UAC security system—when turned on—has a restrictive set of privileges assigned to a normal user account. This ensures malicious apps do not play foul with the system settings. A limited set of privileges are key to securing your system.
  • Credential Prompts: Whenever a critical administrative operation needs to be performed by an app, this security system prompts for credentials. It ensures that only authorized users can trigger such an operation.
  • App Isolation: The User Account Control system creates a shield against unauthorized changes to critical system settings. It's a kind of app isolation system to protect your system from infections and hacks.

As you can see, the advantages and benefits of this security system are good enough to keep it active and in use. You can think of it as a companion app for your Antivirus application.

Capabilities and Customization Choices

To safeguard system integrity, UAC (User Account Control) functions by implementing a sequence of prompts and access controls.

Its primary purpose is to ensure that users are fully informed about and grant explicit consent for actions that could potentially impact system functionality.

Whenever a user initiates an administrative action, such as software installation or system setting modification, UAC promptly intervenes by presenting one of the following prompts:

Consent Prompt

While using the UAC system, the most common type of prompt is the consent prompt. It asks for user confirmation to go ahead with the action.

UAC consent prompt

This security prompt's sole purpose is to prevent unwanted or accidental changes to the system and allows users to cancel the action if they suspect malicious intent.

Credential Prompt

Whenever a task or action requires administrative privileges, the user is prompted to enter the username and password to authorize and approve the action. This helps in preventing unauthorized use of administrative privileges and power.

UAC credentials prompt

The credential prompt is used less when compared to the consent prompt in day-to-day work. But, it is vital to prevent the unauthorized execution of privileged code.

Customization and Best Practices for Using UAC

UAC's behavior and its prompts can be customized depending on your needs and preferences. Windows provides multiple configuration options to tweak and adjust UAC settings, ranging from maximum possible security to a more lenient approach towards app execution.

To make the most out of the UAC system, you must consider the following best practices:

  • Keep UAC Active & Enabled: I strongly recommend keeping the UAC system enabled on your Windows machine to reap the benefits of its security features. If you're disabling it, your system's capability to deal with malware and unauthorized changes will reduce—significantly.
  • Choose Appropriate UAC Level: Depending on your requirements, select the appropriate UAC level. Different levels of UAC (User Account Control) in Windows

    Following are the different levels or options available for customizing your UAC experience:

    • Always notify me
    • Notify me only when apps try to make changes to my computer (default)
    • Notify me only when apps try to make changes to my computer (do not dim my desktop)
    • Never notify me

    The second one is the default setting for UAC and is highly recommended for most users. Never use the fourth option as it is equivalent to keeping your UAC system—switched off.
  • Be Alert and Attentive: Keeping the UAC system active and selecting the appropriate level isn't enough. You need to be attentive whenever a UAC prompt pops up on your screen. Take your time in reading the information on the prompt and accordingly take your decision.
  • Keep Window Updated: And, last but not least, keep both your Windows copy as well as your Antivirus app updated. It'll greatly help in keeping your system secure and in top-notch condition.


User Account Control (UAC) plays a vital role in fortifying the security architecture of Windows. It acts as a robust defense mechanism, shielding your computer against unauthorized access and potential threats posed by malicious software.

UAC achieves this by granting users awareness, restricting privileges, and delivering secure prompts, empowering you to exercise full control over system modifications.