Get ready or get dragged kicking and screaming into the upcoming Non-Admin world

So you have been spoiled by years of running as an Administrator on Windows and used to being able to do whatever you want? Well you'd better start getting used to not running as Admin all the time otherwise Windows Vista is going to drag you into the Non-Admin world.

In case you aren't aware, in Vista even running as Admin doesn't mean you have Admin privileges. You still run with normal user privileges and only when you invoke a program requiring an action with an Admin privilege does Vista pop up dialog confirming it and optionally asking for credentials. This is called User Account Control UAC. I was just kidding about the kicking and screaming part :) Vista does try and make this as painless and easy as possible.

But today in Windows XP you might need to run as Admin for various reasons which might be beyond your control. So how then can you prepare yourself and get a similar effect? Enter SetSAFER (but don't download it yet from the link on that article, read on). This is an excellent tool that allows you to run individual applications as a normal user even if you are running as Admin. This way you can run your high risk and/or internet connected programs as a normal user and reduce your attack surface. I run IE, Office, Media Player, MSN Messenger etc through it without much issues. And on the odd chance that you do need to run them as Admin then a couple of clicks will allow you to do that easily (just don't forget to revert).

The version of SetSAFER in the original article was based on a Beta version of the .Net Framework 2.0 so it won't work for most people now. A while ago I did send mail to Michael Howard about what the problem was and he made an updated version of the binary available on his blog. After installing SetSAFER from the original MSDN article, just update the SetSAFER.exe it installs by the one from Michael Howard's blog. Or you can just comment line 20 in Program.cs and rebuild it with VS 2005.