Have you ever been asked by someone if they could use your Mac? It is an excruciating question to the Mac faithful. Whilst we don’t wish to be mean spirited, we also don’t want others to have access to our content. What if they delete something?

To avoid an altercation, you can use a Guest User account in OS X Mavericks. The Guest User account is specifically designed for these instances as it allows full access to a new user account, with all applications available, but without access to the files contained within your personal home folder. Guest users will still be able to access information located on external hard drives, and other folders that exist outside of your home folder, on your Mac’s hard drive.

Depending on how you log into your Mac, you may have already noticed the option for logging in as a Guest User. This functionality is active by default, but incase it doesn’t appear on your Mac during the startup process, the following instructions will show you how to set up, and login, to a Guest Account.

Proceed to System Preferences > Users & Groups. As a security measure, many of the options, including the accounts, will be locked and appear in grey, rather than black text. Click the Lock at the bottom of this window and enter the password that is associated with your account to unlock full control. In the Other Users area, select Guest User.

Users and Group

To activate the Guest User account, add a tick to the box next to Allow Guests To Log In To This Computer. Next you will need to decide if you wish to have Parental Controls enabled. We would recommend leaving this setting turned on as it allows more fine control over what can be accessed on your Mac, by a guest user. More importantly it will give you additional comfort when lending the Mac to a child or adolescent as they will not be able to access any unsavory content when navigating online. Whilst this article won’t detail the Parental Control options, we suggest you open this area and take the time to make the most appropriate settings for prospective users. Please note that Parental Controls are attached to each user account and therefore are not applicable to all users. This also allows you to set different restriction levels, for different user accounts.

The third option available, when setting up a guest account, is to Allow Guests To Connect To Shared Folders. Please be aware that any files within in a shared folder, between users, can not be altered by a guest user. They are set as read only, but they can be duplicated by the guest user to create a new file. Files and folders are also not able to be deleted by the guest user without you inputting your username and password. Similarly, new files and folders can not be added to the shared folder without confirmation via your username and password. It is important to note that files can be copied from the shared directory. Additionally, any files that have been created within the Guest User account home folder will subsequently be permanently deleted upon a guest user logging out. Any files created by the guest user and saved to external drives, or cloud services will not be deleted.

Log out

We therefore recommend you setup another style of user account should a particular person require regular access.

Now that you have setup the Guest User account, you can log into it buy utilizing a series of different methods. You will notice at the bottom of the Users & Groups System Preferences panel there is a Login Options area. Simply select, and you will be presented with a series of options that will allow you to decide the best approach to take with regards to logging in, or switching user accounts.

Auto login

Some of the settings you may find useful include:

Automatic Login: By default, this option will be set to off. You can change this setting to allow a specific user account to be initially logged in upon startup, including the guest user account, if you wish to bypass the login screen when you startup your Mac. We strongly recommend that you leave this setting in the Off position as it is your first line of security in preventing unauthorized access to your Mac, and user account.

Show Fast User Switching Menu As: This option will allow you present your full name, account name, or the user icon in the Menu Bar of your Mac. The advantage to utilizing this option is it prevents you from logging out completely when another user wants to quickly access your Mac. The Menu Bar will look similar to the image below and all you need to do is select the user account your wish to switch to. When switching back from the Guest User account to your own account, you will need to re-enter your username and password as a security measure.

Fast User

When using Fast User Switching, all the information in your user account will be preserved until your return to your account. If the other person attempts to Restart, or Shut Down the Mac, they will be unable to do so until you enter your username and password. That being said, should someone hard restart your Mac, via the Power button, then your content will not be preserved. It is with that in mind that we recommend you save and close any important documents you have been working on prior to allowing anyone to use your Mac, even if they do so via a different user account.

If you would like more information on how to manage your Mac, please drop into the store and our knowledgeable staff would be more than willing to assist you with your specific needs.