Windows Vista: making the formerly trivial nearly impossible every day since 2007

windows_vistaimgSo yesterday my daughter got herself into trouble. Normally, she’s a really well-behaved girl, but last night she made up for a few months of good behaviour with one well-timed failure to obey her mother and some poor choices regarding a school orchestra recital. So to punish her, I’ve taken away her access to the computer for a week. Should be a snap, I think. In every version of Windows since NT I can just go in and disable her account. Child’s play. Wrong, sooo wrong.

I tried several approaches, some obvious, some not, but for some reason Microsoft decided that the account lock out feature is too dangerous for primitive Windows Vista home users. They don’t provide any access to it in the User Accounts applet through the Control Panel, and they’ve disabled access through the Computer Management MMC plug-in. After flailing around for about fifteen minutes (which for such a trivial thing felt like a lifetime), I suddenly remembered the old tried-and-true user account command line tool:NET USER.

Not to be confused withNET USE(which is for accessing shared network drives),NET USERlets you manage Windows user accounts from the command line. Feeling like I was only seconds away from my goal, I started a command prompt and got the command line help for the tool (NET USER /?). I get this output:

NET USER [username [password | *] [options]] [/DOMAIN]
username {password | *} /ADD [options] [/DOMAIN]
username [/DELETE] [/DOMAIN]
username [/TIMES:{times | ALL}]

Arrgh! Nothing remotely resembling the disable command I remember from 10 years ago. But, not willing to give up yet, I tryNET HELP USER, and I see this:

(boring stuff elided)
Options Are as follows:
Options Description

/ACTIVE:{YES | NO} Activates or deactivates the account. If
the account is not active, the user cannot
access the server. The default is YES.
(more boring stuff elided)

Victory! So I disabled her account, and it disappeared off of the login screen. She’ll think I deleted it, and I’ll go to sleep tonight satisfied that I have yet again managed to do something in 1/2 hour that could have been done with three mouse clicks a mere three years ago. Sigh.