In some offices, computers are shared between two or more employees or temporary workers. That sounds like a recipe for disaster, but Windows 10 has great tools for allowing multiple people to share a single PC without letting them read, edit, or delete each other’s files and folders; use or delete each other’s applications; or make system-wide customizations.

These tools can also be a big help for people who work from home and need to share their PC with a family member some of the time. They allow you to set up and log in with different user profiles so each user has access to only their own files and folders, apps, and preferences. In this piece, I’ll show you what to do.

This article has been updated for the Windows 10 October 2020 Update (version 20H2). If you have an earlier release of Windows 10, some things may be slightly different.

Setting up accounts for sharing a Windows 10 PC

Windows 10 makes it easy for multiple people to share the same PC. To do it, you create separate accounts for each person who will use the computer. Each person gets their own storage, applications, desktops, settings, and so on.

One person, the PC’s administrator, sets up and manages all the accounts, including a variety of system settings that only the administrator can access. The administrator account is established when Windows is first installed or used on the machine. (You can also upgrade other user accounts to administrator status, as I’ll cover later in the story.)

If you’re an administrator, setting up a user account is easy. First you’ll need the email address of the person for whom you want to set up an account. Ideally, this should be the sign-in information for their Microsoft account (such as an @outlook.com or @hotmail.com address or a corporate email address at an organization that uses Outlook) so they’ll be able to use all of their existing Windows settings, get access to their OneDrive storage, and download and install apps from the Microsoft Store. Anybody can sign up for a Microsoft account for free.

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