Windows 7: Almost a Third Less Pesky
"You'll see a lot fewer UAC prompts in Windows 7," said Paul Cook, the director of Windows 7 client enterprise security.
User Account Control, or UAC, the security feature that debuted in Vista, was designed to reduce the chance that malware could hijack a PC by forcing users to confirm that they really meant to do such things as install new software or modify key operating system settings.
People hated it, calling it intrusive and worse, forcing Microsoft to reduce the number of UAC prompts -- pop-ups that prevented the user from doing anything but dealing with the dialog box -- even before it launched Vista. And earlier this year, a senior-level executive cited a study that said user "click fatigue" had convinced the company to further scale back the prompts in Windows 7.
Monday, Cook claimed that Windows 7 users would face UAC significantly less often than people running Vista: "From our beta and internal testing, we expect a 29% decrease in UAC prompts compared to Windows Vista," he said.
Among the changes Microsoft's made to UAC that will drive that decrease, Cook cited several specific examples, then pointed to the new "slider bar" that will let users fine tune the intensity of the security feature. "We've reduced 16 different points of prompting," Cook claimed, ranging from allowing a standard user to pull operating system updates without seeing a prompt to viewing (but not changing) firewall settings sans a pop-up. Nor will Windows' own components throw up a UAC prompt, Cook added.
Microsoft has already modified Windows 7's UAC for reasons other than prompt reduction; In February, the company responded to critics who argued it could be easily disabled by attackers, saying that it would change the feature to make it more secure when it rolled out a release candidate.
The company has not confirmed a ship date for Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC), but a page on Microsoft's site that was live for several hours this weekend pegged May 5 as the availability date for partners.
Cook said he expects the reduction of UAC prompts in Windows 7 to exceed the preliminary data Microsoft's acquired so far. "Personally, I expect that number to go up as it gets in the hands of more unsophisticated users," he said, referring to the time when Windows 7 is pre-installed in new PCs and in the hands of people who don't typically bother beta testing software.