By Ken Fisher | Published: April 11, 2008
User Account Control is easily one of the most hated features of Windows Vista, according to readers. The seemingly endless stream of UAC pop-ups, asking you to confirm this action or that action, just get in the way (and aren't particularly zippy, given the screen redraw). Others don't mind UAC, but there's no doubt it's a controversial "feature" of the OS.
What makes UAC annoying is that it's a half-breed of sorts. UAC is not a security barrier, which is one of the reasons why users hate it: they don't see the point in a process elevation alert box that asks you to click "OK," as opposed to inputting a password when you're an admin.
UAC's real purpose is quite simple: it's meant to trip whenever a routine attempts to elevate security privileges, and get in your face. As we have reported before, this has two goals: a) it give users a chance to approve of the elevation in the off chance that something wrong is happening, and b) it encourages developers to design their software such that privilege elevations aren't needed in the first place. The latter is really the point of UAC, since users have absolutely zero control over the privilege requests their applications make (other than to chose not to install said apps).
Microsoft's approach to UAC is a carrot-and-stick way to get developers to adopt Microsoft's latest views on secure application installation and setup, but it does come at the expense of the user experience. It's hardly no surprise, then, that one of the most popular post-Vista install activities is disabling UAC. I still haven't disabled it myself, but I've come close. Microsoft claims that 88% of Vista users leave UAC enabled, and that application developers are already greatly enhancing their setup routines to avoid process elevation.
One could argue that this approach is incredibly flawed, since the people best in position to make the changes needed are developers, not the end users who are stuck with a cavalcade of UAC prompts.
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