worst best part about being the Microsoft guru when a new OS ships is configuring PCs for family members. In Windows 8, it’s a big relief that the new start screen makes things inherently more secure and less worrisome, but in desktop mode and since I have family members who haven’t upgraded yet, I get asked about pop ups and pop “under” windows all the time, and configuring family safety settings.
The challenge is striking a balance between stopping annoying popups while allowing desirable popups to be allowed through. It’s a little bit like a smoke detector in a house: you want to work when there’s a fire, but not go off every time you snuff out a candle or burn the toast.
The first thing I do when setting up a new PC is that I configure all popups to open in a new tab. This makes it easy to manage where a popup came from to keep things grouped, but also prevents popups from constantly getting above/under your space. To do this, open the settings in IE:
And on the Internet Options page, click Tabs:
On the Tabs window, be sure to select “Always open pop-ups in new tab”:
This way, even if you disable all pop up behavior, it’s still manageable. For power users, the pop up settings page allows quite a bit of configuration:
The default setting is medium, which works well in most situations however a few pop ups are occasionally possible – in particular, when the user clicks a link, and this is how many pop up/under windows are opened. This setting allows pop up windows from sites in the trusted sites or local intranet zone.
The high setting disables all pop ups, but can be overridden by holding CTRL+ALT when clicking a link. This is great for power users, but too prohibitive for most casual users.
The low setting is similar to the medium setting, except it allows all pop ups from secure SSL (https://) sites without requiring an explicit entry in the allowed sites section.
An entry into the allowed sites allows pop ups from those sites, regardless of the blocking level.
Although I haven’t seen a document specific to Windows 8, for the true geek, there’s some good info on this MSDN page on the security zone templates.
The next most important thing, particularly for kids, is to configure family safety settings. Seriously. Don’t do this later, do it right now. This can be done on earlier versions of Windows, but I’ll focus on Windows 8 here. From either the control panel, search for family safety:
Or, just start typing family safety on the start screen and select ‘settings’ on the search results:
When configuring family safety, there are a ton of great options to balance exactly what the child is allowed to do:
Most of these are pretty self explanatory, but the web filtering is likely most important:
Out of the box, this is a great first step to making sure the content they see is not inappropriate.
When my daughter logs in and opens a web browser, she’ll see:
Now, if I try to go to my blog, the content by default is blocked:
If it’s a local account only, the parent must be present at the PC to give permission to view a site. Otherwise, all of the accounts and permissions can be handled online – this is great for situations where I might not be around and can approve requests remotely.
The other great part about this is the reporting and time limit features. My daughter is fairly possessive of her PC, but I can monitor everything remotely without being too invasive, and set a curfew or other time limits.
So, there you have it. Lots of configurability, but the most important aspect is allowing her to own her own PC without me worrying about inappropriate content. It does take a small amount of setup, but it’s worth it.