Microsoft to improve UAC in Windows 7

Microsoft has been talking about future changes to Windows Vista's
most maligned feature, User Account Control (UAC). This security
feature, which alerts users via popup boxes, may get modified with
Microsoft's next-generation Windows OS, according to the
"Engineering Windows 7" blog.


A post on Oct. 8 by Ben Fathi readily admits
that "User Account Control (UAC) is, arguably, one of the most
controversial features in Windows Vista."


UAC uses dialog boxes to inform a user about "system level"
changes that often occur when downloading software. Vista users
have complained from the beginning about the frequent popups. Apple
even did a TV commercial making fun of them.


The premise behind UAC is to inform the users when the system
may be threatened, even when a perceived threat is initiated by the
user. It's sort of a built-in IT admin that questions user
motivations on numerous levels.


Despite the promise of changes, reader feedback shared in the
blog contained several negative comments about UAC.


"I do not like to be continuously asked if I want to do what I
just told the computer to do'I feel like I am asked by Vista
to approve every little thing I do on my PC and I find it very
aggravating," said one reader.


The Microsoft team acknowledged the frustration with UAC.
However, they say that the feature's potential benefit is that it
forces "malware or poorly written software to show itself" and get
the user's permission before it can harm the system.


Windows components account for approximately 40 percent of UAC
prompts, but that number has been reduced with the release of
Service Pack 1 for Vista.


Data from Microsoft's customer experience improvement program
show that applications and tasks that generate UAC prompts have
plummeted from 775,312 when Vista was introduced to 168,149 in
August of this year.


"Windows has more of an opportunity to make deeper architectural
changes in Windows 7, so you can expect fewer prompts from Windows
components," said Fathi in the blog. "Reducing prompts in the
software ecosystem and in Windows is a win-win proposition."


Fathi noted that the engineering team for Windows 7 has "taken a
hard look at UAC" and that several key issues will be addressed,
including reducing unnecessary or duplicated prompts, making
critical prompts more identifiable, and making the prompts more
informative so users can make "confident choices."


One of the goals for UAC was to give IT administrators and
parents greater control by allowing them to lock down the system
for certain users. Windows 7 will continue to build on the benefits
of UAC in making systems more secure, Fathi said.


"As we evolve UAC for Windows 7 we will address the customer
feedback and satisfaction issues with the prompts themselves,"
stated Fathi. "We've heard loud and clear that you are
frustrated."


Windows 7, by most reports, is due to be ready in late 2009 or
early 2010.


About the Author

Herb Torrens is a freelance writer based in Southern California.

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