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Chapter 2. How Do I Manage User Accounts? > Working with Fast User Switching

2.4. Working with Fast User Switching

The Fast User Switching feature is great because it allows multiple users to be logged in at the same time. Instead of having to log out of your account for someone else to log in, the other user can log in by using the commands on the Fast User Switching menu. This is good because when you log out of an account, all processes are shut down, meaning that all open documents and applications are closed. If you have a lot of work ongoing, this can be a nuisance. With Fast User Switching, other users can log in while your account remains active in the background. When you log back in to your account, it is in the same state as when the other user logged in, and you can get back to what you were doing immediately.

Fast User Switching is disabled by default; to enable it, do the following:

  1. Open the System Preferences application and click the Accounts icon.

  2. Click Login Options.

  3. Select the Show fast user switching menu as check box.

  4. Choose one of the following options on the pop-up menu:

    • Name. The Fast User Switching menu is indicated by the user account's full name.

    • Short name. The Fast User Switching menu is indicated by the user account's username (short name).

    • Icon. The Fast User Switching menu is indicated by a silhouette.

To use Fast User Switching, open the Fast User Switching menu on the menu bar by clicking the current user's full name, the short name, or the silhouette. The Fast User Switching menu appears (see figure 2.13).

On this menu, you see the following:

  • List of user accounts. Each user account configured on your MacBook appears in the list.

  • Login Window. Choose this command to cause the Login window to appear.

  • Account Preferences. Choose this command to move to the Accounts pane of the System Preferences application.

Figure 2.13. The Fast User Switching menu makes it easier to share your MacBook with others.

To switch to a different user account, select it on the menu. The password prompt appears. If the password is typed correctly, that user account becomes active. The current account remains logged in but is moved into the background.

You can have as many user accounts logged in simultaneously as you want. However, remember that each account that is logged in can have active processes, all of which use your MacBook's resources. So, you don't want to get carried away with this idea.


To quickly secure your MacBook without logging out, choose Login Window from the Fast User Switching menu. The Login window appears, but you remain logged in (you see a check mark next to your username). In order for someone to use your MacBook, he must know a valid password to be able to log in (unless you've configured a user account to not require a password).

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