Disable the Guest account in Windows XP

by Daniel Petri - January 8, 2009

Do I need the Guest account in Windows XP? Can I disable it?

Yes you can disable the guest account, but you shouldn't. You need it. The Guest account in Windows XP Home Edition and Windows XP Professional (when not joined on a domain) serves several special functions that relate to security and network shares. Because of its importance, you must not disable the Guest account. If you disable the Guest account, your network can have problems that include malfunctioned shares.

Note: You might also be interested in Disable the Guest account in Windows 2000.

To hide the guest account - On a Windows XP Home computer, or on a Windows XP Professional computer that is not a part of a domain do the following:

  1. Click Start, and then click Control Panel.

  2. Click User Accounts.

  3. Under or pick an account to change, click Guest.

  1. On the What do you want to change about the guest account page, click Turn off the guest account.

The Windows XP Guest account is used in the Windows XP Home Edition and in Windows XP Professional when it is not a domain member. Windows XP - particularly XP Home - uses the Guest Account in an unexpected way. Everybody who gets onto a networked XP Home computer is automatically authenticated as a "Guest". Doesn't matter who they are, or what kind of privileges they have on their home computer, if they're connected to an XP computer, they're a Guest. If you're using your XP computer in a Domain environment, you'd expect that turning off the Guest account on your computer will restrict access to that PC, right? With the Guest Account turned off, the theory goes, only people who are authorized to use your machine will be able to get onto it. Correct? Unfortunately, in XP it doesn't work that way.

Presumably, if you turn off the Guest Account, and force all users to log on with passwords (go to Start > Control Panel > User Accounts > pick the account > Create a password), only people who have a user names and a password will be able to get on the computer. Right?

Wrong! If you follow the instructions on the tips page noted above and turn off the Guest Account on a Windows XP/Home system, you don't turn really turn off the Guest Account at all. All you did is to turn off is the "Guest Account" icon on the Welcome screen. That's all. So people who walk up to the computer in question can't click Guest Account and immediately start using the computer. Even if you've followed the instructions and turned off the Guest Account, people who connect to the computer over the peer-to-peer network are still authenticated as Guests.

If you could turn off the Guest Account on an XP computer you'd screw up everything - file sharing, printer sharing, Internet connection sharing, you name it. So XP leads you to believe that the Guest Account is gone, when in fact it's still alive and well, but just not visible on the Welcome screen.

To disable the guest account - On a Windows XP Home computer, or on a Windows XP Professional computer that is not a part of a domain do the following:

  1. Right-click My Computer, and then click Manage.

  2. Click Local Users and Groups.

  3. Click Users.

  4. Right-click the Guest account, choose Properties.

  1. On the General tab, select Account is Disabled.

  1. Click Ok.

Reader Note: Reader Scott Crawford wrote about a glitch in Windows XP Home Edition:

In Windows XP Home you'll need to use the NET USER command from the command prompt because the Local Users and Groups is not easily available. To do so open a Command Prompt by running CMD.EXE.

Use the following syntax:

net user username /active:no

Thanks Scott for the comment.



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