It seems that everywhere I turn, the computer press keeps implying that the only people who leave UAC turned on are people who don't really understand computers. In June 2008, for example, it's #6 on their list of tips (page 64 in the print edition):

6. Turn off annoying prompts. Vista added the "A Program Needs Your Permission to Continue" prompt to help prevent you from inadvertently installing malware or making unauthorized changes to your computer. It's annoying to see that dialog box constantly pop up. If you're computer savvy, you can turn it off by deactivating User Account Control in the User Accounts Control Panel.

Et tu, PCMag?

Clearly, we understand that there are a lot of people who are going to turn off UAC. But coercing people to turn off a feature that helps them by implying that not doing so means they aren't computer savvy... yowzers. I consider myself computer savvy, but I would never turn it off. I just do not trust the public Internet or everything I download from it to be an Administrator on my computer. UAC gives me a means to express my inherent mistrust.

Because it turns out it actually does help prevent you from inadvertently installing malware.

And of course I know you can just be more careful. But, if you think about it, being secure means going through a decision every time you launch something. You can either do a mental prompt before you take any action (does clicking this thing put me at risk, since I'll be giving it admin rights?) or to some smaller subset of actions which explicitly gain admin rights. So, with UAC, I have prompts, but I think less, because I only have to think when the prompts tell me to.

And if I'm not thinking, just doing - well, am I really being computer savvy?

What can I say, I'm lazy. I think saying yes every now and again requires far fewer cognitive resources than being mindful of each and every thing that I do on my computer, despite the vast differences in trust I allocate to each action based on its source.

My colleague Gerrard Lindsay described the "annoyance" in a way that really caught my eye:

Some annoying things that are still worth it:

  1. Alarm clocks
  2. The rumble strips on the edges of highways
  3. The gag reflex
  4. Fire Alarms
  5. Door Locks
  6. Not running as an administrator on XP

Just some food for thought. You can be computer savvy and enable UAC. It won't make you more popular, better looking, or drive a nicer car, but it will help you think less.

UAC: the greatest thing since the gag reflex.

Man, good thing I don't have a job in marketing.

Springboard Live! Real Talk about Windows Vista Deployment

I'll be joining the panel of bloggers discussing real world challenges deploying Windows Vista. If you're going to be at TechEd 2008, join us Thursday, June 12 at 10:00 am!