Security is essential in any digital environment, so to make it easier for users to manage permissions and other user accounts, Windows offers a useful feature called user groups. Although it may seem a bit intimidating at first, this feature is not that hard to understand and use, and it might just save you a lot of time and energy when managing multiple accounts. Let's get into some more detail and see what user groups are and how you can use them to your advantage.
What Is A User Group In Windows?
In a Windows operating system, a user group is a collection of multiple user accounts that share common security rights. This is why you will often hear IT professionals refer to user groups as security groups.
For example, if you want to give your relatives the option to use your computer when they drop by for the holidays, you may want to create an account for your 5 year old cousin, so he can play some games, one for your aunt and one for your uncle. However, you don't want to give them administrative rights, so that they don't change important settings in your operating system.
To handle the situation in an elegant fashion, you can group all their accounts in a user group, so that you grant them the same security privileges without having to set each account's rights individually.
Why Does Windows Use User Groups?
User groups are an important security feature that is aimed primarily at simplifying the management of large numbers of users. For instance, you can encounter user groups at your workplace, especially if you're working in a big company that has multiple departments with lots of computers, both mobile and workstations.
System administrators utilize user groups to limit user access to features of the operating system that they shouldn't modify or set different levels of access for the applications that are available in the company's network.
The strength of user groups resides in the fact that they offer a centralized way of managing multiple user permissions without having the need to configure each account separately, which is a great productivity boost for network administrators.
For instance, user groups can save a lot of a network administrator's time when configuring new accounts for new hires. Instead of manually configuring each setting for each account, he can simply add the account to an existing user group and it will automatically inherit the group's security privileges.
Who Can Manage User Groups?
By default, the only users who are allowed to make changes to user groups are the ones who belong to the Administrators user group.
In the image above, you can see that the only members of the Administrators group are the users Administrator and Vlad.
If you try to make changes to a user group while logged in with a user account that's not part of the Administrators group, you will get the following error: "Access is denied".
How To View The User Groups That Exist On Your Computer?
You can manage existing users and user groups only from an administrator account. In other words, if you want to view and modify user groups, you must login with a user account that is part of the Administrators user group.
Once logged in with the right account, open the Computer Management tool and use the Local Users and Groups snap-in.
For detailed information about this topic, read this article: The Geek's Way of Managing User Accounts and Groups in Windows.
How To Learn The Groups To Which Your User Account Belongs To
The easiest way to learn which user groups your user account belongs to, is through the use of the gpresult tool.
First, start the Command Prompt. Then, type in
gpresult /r and press Enter. This tool will display various security details about the operating system and your user account. At the end of the list, it will display the list of the groups your user account is registered to.
To find out what user groups a user account is part of, you must run gpresult while logged in with that specific user account.
User groups are a powerful feature that can be very useful in large networks with many users. It saves administrators a lot of time and effort when managing multiple user accounts and provides a centralized way of doing this.
Have you worked with user groups in Windows? How useful did you find them? We'd like to hear more in the comments section below.