Creating New User Accounts on Your Mac

Learn about the various types of Mac user accounts

When you first set up a Mac, it walks you through the steps to configure an administrator account. If you're the only one who uses your Mac, you aren't required to have any other user account types, although you may be better served by using a standard account for routine use. If you share your Mac with family members or friends, you need to know how to create additional user accounts. You may want to set up:

  • Additional administrator account
  • Standard user account
  • Managed account with parental controls
  • Spare user account for troubleshooting
  • Guest account for temporary access

Information in this article applies to macOS Catalina (10.15), macOS Mojave (10.14), macOS High Sierra (10.13), and macOS Sierra (10.12), except as indicated.

Understanding Mac Administrator Accounts

When you first set up your Mac, the setup assistant creates an administrator account automatically. The administrator account has privileges that allow it to make changes to the Mac operating system, including adding other account types, installing apps, and accessing some areas of the system that are protected from other user account types.

Adding an administrator account to macOS

Along with special privileges, an administrator account has all the features of a standard user, such as a home folder and access to the apps in the Applications folder. You can use the administrator account for your daily tasks. However, if you want to follow a strict security protocol, you should only use an administrator account when needed and change to a standard account for day-to-day use.

You only need a single administrator account to work effectively with your Mac, but if you share your Mac with others, a second administrator account can be helpful, especially if you don't want to be your family's 24/7 IT support staff.

Standard User Accounts on a Mac

Creating a standard user account for each family member is a great way to share your Mac. Each user account gets its own home folder for storing documents, its own set of user preferences, its own music library, Safari bookmarks, Messages account, Contacts, and Photos library.

Standard account creation in macOS

Standard account users also have some customization capabilities, although they only affect their own accounts. They can pick their favorite desktop background and screensavers, and they can customize the apps they use, such as Safari or Mail, without affecting other account holders on your Mac.

Managed Accounts With Parental Controls for a Mac

Managed user accounts are available in macOS Sierra through macOS Mojave. Like a standard user account, a managed user account has its own home folder, music library, Safari bookmarks, Messages account, Contacts, and Photos library.

Managed accounts allow for the use of parental contros.l

Unlike standard user accounts, managed user accounts have Parental Controls, which determine which applications may be used, which websites may be visited, whom the user may exchange email or messages with, and the hours and days during which the computer can be used.

Setting Parental Controls With a Managed Account

When you create a managed account, you, as the administrator, set up Parental Controls to gain some level of control over the content and services the managed account user can access.

Parental controls in macOS

You determine which applications the account holder is allowed to use, as well as which websites may be visited in the web browser. You can set up a list of people that are allowed in the user's Contacts list and with whom the user can exchange messages and email.

Additionally, you can control when and for how long a managed user can use the Mac.

Parental Controls are easy to set up and versatile enough to allow your children to have fun on the Mac without getting into trouble.

In macOS Catalina, the managed account disappeared. Instead, you activate Family Sharing, set up a standard account for each child, and set restrictions in the Family Sharing preferences screen.

Spare User Account to Assist inTroubleshooting

A spare user account is a standard account you rarely use. It has a particular attribute that makes it beneficial when you are troubleshooting a Mac problem.

Spare Admin Account

Because the spare user account is not often used, all its preference files and lists are in the default state. The spare user account's "fresh" state of affairs makes it ideal to use when tracking down Mac problems related to apps that don't work and times when the Mac exhibits the pinwheel of death or just acts flaky.

By comparing how your Mac works with the spare user account versus the account you usually use, you can determine whether the problem is only happening with one user account or all the user accounts.

As an example, if a single user is having problems with Safari stalling or crashing, the user's Safari preference file may be corrupt. Deleting the preference file for that user may correct the problem.

Guest Account for Temporary Access for Friends

A guest account lets a friend log in on your computer without a password and use it temporarily. When the person logs out, all the information in the guest account's home folder is removed from your computer permanently.

Guest account on Mac

If you turn on FileVault on your computer, a guest user can only access Safari, although you have the option to allow guest users to access shared folders.

If you use this method to allow your young children to access the web, activate the Limit Adult Websites option.