Probably for most people their computer is literally their personal computer. These days lots of children have their own computers, but what if you have one family computer that is being shared by multiple persons. If you allow everyone within the family to use the same account, you can for sure expect problems. There will be chaos in the structure of system and personal files, there will be an abundance of apps installed by different people with different interests, and there will be a great chance that family members mutate or delete each other’s files without being aware of the consequences for others in your household. And maybe worse, with a single user setup, the young kids also have the freedom to use the computer when you are not around. In Zorin OS, just like in any other serious desktop operating system, it is possible to create multiple user accounts. And it is advisable to use it. In this tutorial I will explain how to manage users in Zorin OS.
Distro version: Zorin OS 16 Core
Tutorial series: Zorin OS Tutorial Series
Note: This tutorial series is still in progress, so not all chapters are finished yet.
Our example family
In Zorin OS it is actually very easy to set up multiple user accounts, all with their own settings, applications and specific possibilities. Let’s use as an example the imaginary family Harris with mother Julia, father Theo, and two children, of which Jim is 17 years old and Katie is almost 9 years old. We will set up Zorin OS in such a way that all family members get their own account, each with its own capabilities and where necessary restrictions.
How to create extra accounts in Zorin OS
When you installed Zorin OS the first time, you were required to set up an admin user, which you probably gave your name and password to. In our example I assume that one of the parents is the initial administrator of the family who installed Zorin OS on the computer.
So let’s say that you are Julia and you installed Zorin OS the first time and you are the Linux lover and administrator in the family. So as a starter you are going to create 3 extra users for your husband and two kids. Go through the following steps:
1) Click on the Zorin OS icon to open the Applications Menu and search for Settings or click here directly on the Settings shortcut.
Now the Zorin OS Settings screen will be opened.
2) Scroll down through the Settings options till you find the Users option.
3) Select the Users option.
Now the following screen will open.
Here we see that currently the only user is Julia Harris. In this screen we can change the name of Julia, change her password, decide if you want to enable Automatic Login, and have a look at this users Account Activity (start date and time and end date and time of the previous sessions of a user). Here you also see the message that for some settings (like the inactivated Automatic Login) to be changed you need to unlock first.
4) Click on Unlock… and type the requested password.
Now you see the option Add User… in the top bar of the Users window.
5) Click on Add User…
In the screen that just opened we are going to add the rest of the Harris family. We can do a couple of things here. of course we can add the full name of the new user, the username to login and the password for this user. You can decide if the user is allowed to choose a personal password at the next login or if you want to set the password now. In case you set the password now, you can determine the password yourself, or you can generate a password by clicking on the small gear icon in the right hand corner of the password area. Further, at the top of this screen, you can choose between Standard account type or Administrator.
After we added the whole Harris family, the User screen looks something like below.
At the top we see some of the users and with the arrows you can move between different pages of users. Because Julia Harris is an Administrator, she has the possibility to remove users, but also to give a user Admin rights. Further an Administrator can see the account activities of all users.
The next time you power on your computer you will see a login screen with the names of all family members. Here each person can select his or her name and type the password to login.
How to change a password in Zorin OS
When someone forgot the password, as an Administrator you want to be able to change the existing password.
1) Go to the Users option in the Settings as already explained in How to create extra accounts in Zorin OS.
2) Click on the user for which you want to change the password.
3) Click on the dots right next to Password.
You now have two options: 1) Allow user to change their password on next login, or 2) Set a password now.
When you select the option to Allow user to change their password on next login, indeed the user sees the following at first startup:
When you select the option to Set a password now, the user needs to use that same password as selected by the Administrator at first login.
How to remove a user in Zorin OS
Son Jim is going to move to the city for his studies so he doesn’t need an account anymore on the family computer. Removing a user is very simple.
1) Click on the Zorin icon again to open the Applications Menu and search for System Settings.
2) Click on System Settings and select Users.
4) Click on Unlock and type your password.
5) Select Jim and click on Remove User…
6) Now decide if you want to keep all files in Jim’s Home folder and underlying folders.
How to lock and unlock a user account in Zorin OS
When for whatever reason you (temporarily) want to lock a user account (perhaps one of the children was very annoying and is temporarily not allowed to use the computer), you have the option to execute a command in the terminal. But probably the most simple approach is to temporarily change this user’s password so he or she can’t login until you change it back or tell what the new password is. For this, have a look again at the previous section “How to change a password in Zorin OS”.
If you want to lock a user account the “official” way without changing the password you can do that on the command line with the “sudo passwd -l [username]” and “sudo passwd -u [username]” commands.
1) Use the keyboard command Ctrl + Alt + T to start the Terminal.
2) Type “sudo passwd -l katieharris” to lock the account of Katie and give Enter.
3) Confirm with your Admin password.
The account of Katie is now locked. To unlock an account do the following:
1) Give the keyboard command Ctrl + Alt + T to start the Terminal.
2) Type “sudo passwd -u katieharris” to unlock the account of Katie and give Enter.
3) Confirm with your Admin password.
The account is now unlocked.
But maybe now you ask yourself why I come up with these terminal commands if I always say that I prefer to use the graphical user interface. And you are right, but there is not a standard graphical way to do this in Zorin OS. We need to install an application first. So here is the graphical way of managing users and user groups.
1) Open the Software application.
2) Search for “gnome-system-tools”.
3) Select Users and Groups, click on Install and type your password.
Now Users and Groups will be installed.
4) Click on Launch.
The application looks as follows:
5) Click on Advanced Settings and type your password.
6) Select Advanced.
Here you can Disable the account.
7) Select “Disable account” and click OK.
Now you see that the account is disabled.
Manage user groups
Now that we installed the Users and Groups application, why not have a more in depth look and create User Groups. Grouping can be handy if you want to implement specific permissions to an entire entire group, instead of doing the same thing for all individual users.
1) Click on Manage Groups in the Users and Groups application.
Now it shows already available groups, but let’s create our own custom group for the children.
2) Click on Add and type your password.
3) Type a group name, like “children” (only lowercase allowed). Keep the Group ID as it is.
4) Select the members for the group.
5) Click on OK.
Now the group “children” has been created containing both Katie and Theo.
Manage user privileges
Also in the Users and Groups application that we just installed we can set some specific privileges, like using floppy drives, use scanners, use video devices, connect wirelessly, etc. To do this go again to the Users and Groups application, select a user and click on Advanced Settings. From here select the User Privileges tab. Now you see a list of option that you can select or deselect.
File management for multiple users
When you create multiple user accounts, each user gets his or her own Home folder with standard sub folders.
The users with an Administrator role can access the folders and files of the other users. The users with a Standard role can only access their own Home folder.
How to setup parental control in Zorin OS
In the previous sections we already discussed the difference between the Standard and Administrator role and adding and changing passwords. But when you have young kids you probably want to think through how to set up their user accounts and what they can do with it. In a separate tutorial I will go a bit deeper in how to set up parental control in Zorin OS (To be written for Zorin OS, so please be patient. Or else have a look on my article How to set up Parental Control in Linux Mint).
That’s it. There are far more topics that can be discussed with respect to user management, but I consider this a tutorial series for beginners and I don’t want to dive in the command line too much. But of course feel free to do some additional investigation yourself if you want to dive deeper in user management in Ubuntu based distros like Zorin OS.