"What happened to my computer's background photo and all my icons?" my client shrieked.
"Nothing. They're all still here," I replied -staying calm. "I've created a new profile on your computer so I wouldn't change any of your settings." I logged off and then back on under my client's name and she greeted her familiar screen with a sigh of relief.
From time to time, I work on a computer that is shared by two or more people. Typically, the programs used on this computer are as varied as its users. For example, if Mom pays the bills, she might have a Quicken icon in the upper left corner of the screen. Underneath that, you might see Dad's online poker icons and digital camera folder full of photos, waiting to be browsed. Jimmy may have three or more icons for his online multi-player battle games and Sally has a shortcut on the desktop that goes to her enormous library of music files. A photo of her favorite rock star might be the desktop background image for all users.
The problem with everyone in the home sharing one "profile" or "logon" is that a change to any setting made by one user affects all users of the computer. This can sometimes result in an unnecessary family feud.
Computers running Windows XP and Mac OS X can create "profiles" so that each computer user can log into their own computer environment with a unique arrangement of icons, mouse speed, browser bookmarks, desktop backgrounds and even which programs are available. Individual computer profiles are seldom used because they require some extra work to set up. However, the benefit of using a computer that behaves uniquely to each user is nice to have.
On a PC, a new profile can be created in Windows XP by clicking the User Accounts button the Control Panel.
On a Mac OS X, clicking the Accounts button in System Preferences will allow you to set up a new profile.
If your family has no problems using only one computer profile then raise a toast to your amazing computer harmony. But if your computer users could benefit from having individual desktop backgrounds, icon arrangement and screen savers then consider giving your computer multiple personalities by adding profiles.