Guest User Accounts

If you want to give someone else access to your Mac, like a house guest or someone visiting you at work, use the Guest Account instead of letting them handle your real user account. Guest Accounts are easy to switch to, and protect all of your documents, settings and other data from mistakes the guys might make. When the guys is done, the Guest Account is wiped out completely, leaving nothing behind. You should have your own account, and anyone else who 'owns' the Mac with you, like a spouse or other family member should have their own account as well. Anyone else should use a Guest Account.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Guest User Accounts.

Hi this is Gary with On today's episode let's take a look at using Guest Accounts on your Mac.

Say I want to hand my MacBook to a friend or family member so they can do something pretty quickly like access the internet or something like that. Or even houseguests come over or somebody is visiting me at work and I want to give them an opportunity to access the internet, check their email, or whatever they want to do.

Now if I give them my Mac, here I've got my Mail they can access. I've got Calendar and Contacts, Reminders, all my browser bookmarks and history. Everything is right here for them to get into. Even if I trust them completely I don't want them to perhaps mess something up like maybe add some bookmarks or to change something in my Contacts or maybe install a piece of software. Even do something like setting some cookies by visiting some websites. I don't want them to mess anything up that I've got going on here.

So it would be nice if I had a second Mac that was completely clean and new and I could give it to them. After they are done using it I can then wipe it clean. Well you can do that with your Mac with the Guest Account.

So here is how the Guest Account works. You go to System Preferences and you look in Users & Groups. You can see under Other Users you've got the Guest User. You can change the options for the Guest User or add it, if it is not enabled, by first clicking Login Options and unlocking it right here by entering in your password.

Now I have the option to enable this Guest User if not already. I can enable parental controls or not. Just give them regular access. It is not administrative access just regular access. Now that I have enabled that all I need to do is when they want to sit down at the computer I can switch users.

I can go over and log me out and it will take me to the login screen. Instead of logging in as me I login as the guest user.

Here they are in a guest user account. It doesn't look that different but if you notice none of the apps are running here. If I were to look in any of these apps, like let's say Contacts, you will see that it is completely empty. It is like you've created a new user for this person and everything is blank. There is no Bookmarks, there is no Mail account right here. If I click on Mail they can quickly add their account here and check their email certainly, but my email account isn't there.

They won't find any of my browser history. None of my preferences for any of the apps but the apps are available. I mean if you notice here you can see apps like Numbers, Keynote, Pages. The apps are for all the users in the entire computer but as a guest user they don't have access to my Documents. If I look under Finder and I go to Documents I can see it is a completely empty folder.

I can go up a level and you can see they're in the guest account and I can look at Users and there I am. There's the guest account they are in and there is my account. I go in that and you can see no access to any of those folders. They can't get into my Documents folder to even see what is there let alone change it.

So it is a completely clean account.

Now here is the best part about a Guest Account. Once they are done doing what they are doing they will go and Logout. When they logout you get this message that by logging out of the guest account it deletes all the files. The entire user directory, any documents they have created and preferences they have saved. Anything they've downloaded, everything, is just completely wiped out.

I can log back in as me. So in the Finder window here I can actually go all the way up to the top to Users again and I can see here that the guest folder isn't even there anymore. It's completely removed. It's like that guest was never there. So this is a great way to give somebody temporary access.

As a matter of fact the only way you should give somebody who does not own your computer temporary access to your Mac. If, of course, you share a computer with more than one person then you can create a user account for them and you both have user accounts you can switch between and it keeps all of your files and preferences and everything like that. So that is a great way to share a computer say with your spouse or your kids.

But for temporary access you want to use Guest Accounts.

Comments: 10 Responses to “Guest User Accounts”

    4 years ago

    following your video, When I set up Guest account on my MacbookPro, all I get is Safari. No dock, so no access to any other applications. The look is not the same like the screen is black and no desktop picture exists. only a black screen. what am I missing?

      4 years ago

      Sounds like you have selected options to limit access under Parental Controls in your System Preferences.

    4 years ago

    How can I replace the “ghost” icon for the Guest Account? I share my Mac with my wife and daughter, and everytime we switch Users, we see that icon and I would like to replace it with a photo of someone or a cartoon character or anything other that what’s there now. Thanks.

      4 years ago

      If you really want to, you can change it. Though I’m not sure it is worth tinkering in your system if you are not 100 percent comfortable. It is at /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/LoginUIKit.framework/Versions/A/Frameworks/LoginUICore.framework/Versions/A/Resources/ in Yosemite — two GuestUser.png files (regular and retina). Use Shift+Command+G to get there.

    Scott Beattie
    4 years ago

    The guest user is great for allowing random visitors to use your Mac – but the guest user behavior is different when File Vault is enabled. With File Vault enabled – attempting to access the guest user – will force you to reboot the Mac into a Safari-only environment – thus it is necessary for other users to log off first. Without File Vault enabled – you can simply switch to the guest user without actually logging off – if you have fast user switching enabled or are at a login screen.

    4 years ago

    I just purchased an imac and i have two accounts… one for my wife and the main one for myself… how can i keep my account unaccesible from my wife and viceversa… yeahh i know… trust issues… dont ask… if i could do it, it will save a lot of blaming and time… she likes to move things around and then i cannot find documents and or programs… thank you!

      4 years ago

      They already are inaccessible. You can’t access her stuff and she can’t access yours. Just remember to log out or switch away. You can’t switch users without logging in to that account.

    4 years ago

    If the same program is used by both users, is it loaded twice? I have lost the password to a guest account on my Macbook and suspect that unnecessary space is being taken up on my hard drive.

      4 years ago

      As long as you have access to one admin account you can reset the password on any account. The guest user account doesn’t have a password. If you are not in the guest user account right now, then it is closed out and nonexistent. But if you mean another user account, then you can simply go to System Preferences, Users and Groups and change the password from any admin account.
      But all you need to do is to restart the Mac and everyone gets logged out.
      Also, don’t confuse “space” with “memory.” Apps use memory when running, but not much and OS X is smart about freeing up memory when an app is inactive. Storage space isn’t being used by running apps (well, sometimes, but probably not in the way you are thinking). Apps are stored in your Applications folder which is shared by all users. So one copy of each app, not matter how many users you have. You can install an app into a special Applications folder for that one user, but that’s the exception, not the default behavior and most Mac users would never do that.

        Bill (William)
        4 years ago

        Thank you!

Comments Closed.