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Issue #211: August 7, 2011

Q: I read your fix: tinyurl.com/27ao94m   [I.G.T.M. #210 – July 31, 2011].  I tried it and got sent to the Ask website.  I could not get to the Microsoft fix.  I am stuck as I can’t open links in websites or emails…   Contact my administrator… I will I am administrator…I don’t know what to do.

– Rick S.
Destin, Fla

 A: As long as you’re contacting your administrator, you should ask about your e-mail, Rick.  I tried to reply to you, and my message got bounced by your server.  You’re not the only person who wrote to me about having a problem accessing this link.  However, rest assured that I tested the link before the column published, and again when e-mails started coming in, and it works for me, and several other people who I asked to test it.  The tinyurl links that I use in the column are redirects to the actual site, and the security settings in some PCs may have trouble with those.  So, here is a direct link to a Microsoft article addressing the problem – you should be able to access it without a problem.  The link will probably break improperly across lines when it prints in the newspaper, so when you enter it into your browser, leave out any hyphens that appear in it, as well as the period on the end: support.microsoft.com/kb/310049.  Partway down the page you’ll find a link to Microsoft Fix It #50388.  That is the link to which the tinyurl was trying to redirect you.

You brought up another problem that I’ve wanted to address for a while, which is the issue of Windows telling people to “Contact your administrator” when something goes wrong.  This message is intended for office environments where Windows is installed and maintained by an IT professional, aka, a System Administrator.  On a home installation, telling someone to contact the administrator is pretty meaningless (Thanks, Bill!).  Worse yet are the situations where the system informs that you can’t do something because you need to be signed in “as an Administrator” when you are already running an account with Administrator privileges, or the Administrator account itself.  That actually had me baffled, until I did some research.  This is going to be yet another “Thanks, Bill!” moment, because as it turns out, just because your account is part of the Administrators group (even if it happens to be the account named “Administrator”) you don’t really have the privileges you think you have – at least not by default.

The problem is that many, if not most, users tend to run as an administrator on their own machine.  That is dangerous, because every program, process, or service that happens to get launched also has full administrator privileges.  See the problem?  Any virus, Trojan, or other malware that slips past your system’s defenses would have free reign to wreak havoc if your account had full admin rights.  Rather than try and convince everyone not to use the Administrator group, Microsoft simply slipped another layer of protection into the mix, in the form of something called User Account Control, or UAC.  This makes admin accounts capable of performing admin tasks, but only if you jump through a hoop first.  One you’ve probably already seen.  When Windows detects that something you are trying to do requires administrator access, it pops up a UAC box, asking whether you want to allow or deny the activity.  You jump through the hoop – you continue.  Easy enough.  But Windows can’t always tell when something must be run as an Administrator, or it may not be possible for it to ask you.  In those situations, it denies the activity, and tells you that you need to have administrator privileges.  The solution in those cases is to explicitly run the program as the Administrator.  This should be used sparingly, as it skirts an important security feature!  To do it, you right-click on whatever it is you’re trying to run, and from the menu, choose “Run as administrator”.  You’ll get the UAC pop-up, but once you click “Yes” on it, you’ll be off and running with all the privileges to make you as dangerous to your computer’s well-being as you can be.


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