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Q176059 says that the Users control panel applet, which provides "a simplified way of creating, managing, and deleting user profiles", was only introduced in the update that installs Internet Explorer 4. The word "simplified" implies there was already some other, more complicated way. I know that you could create a new user on Windows 95 just by logging in as a nonexistent one, but how could you manage and delete them before IE4?

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    Which Windows? The NT lineage, or the DOS-based one? The latter didn't "really" have user identities until you accessed a remote server. Jun 12, 2022 at 2:32
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    @another-dave The DOS-based one. I just did a fresh install of Windows 95 OSR2.1 in a VM with no network adapter, and it let me set up users with different profiles, just by going into Control Panel -> Passwords -> User Profiles and switching the option on there. Jun 12, 2022 at 3:05
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    But does it make any difference at all to the local experience? I recall that if you enter an invalid password, nothing detects it until you connect to a network service, say a file server or a domain controller. Jun 12, 2022 at 13:11
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    @another-dave While it doesn't provide any meaningful privacy protections it does allow each user to have their own desktop settings, application settings, My Documents folder, etc. Think more along the lines of utility to a family sharing a single Desktop PC, each wanting to have their own customized environment.
    – mnem
    Jun 12, 2022 at 13:24
  • @another-dave If you've logged in as a given user before, even just locally, it will check that user's password on subsequent logons. Jun 12, 2022 at 13:51

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Before Internet Explorer 4, Windows 95 user profiles could only be managed manually. Creating a user profile would result in the following changes:

  • a <username>.pwl file in the main Windows directory, used to store the user’s passwords (not only their login password; passwords used to access resources on the network, if the user checked the “Save this password in your password list” box)

  • a directory under the Profiles directory in the main Windows directory, with subdirectories for

    • the desktop
    • the “Recent” folder
    • the Start menu

    and files for the user registry (USER.DAT and its backup, USER.DA0).

Thus to manage users, you would do the following:

  • to delete a user and all their data, delete their PWL file and their profile directory;
  • to clear a user’s password, delete their PWL file; individual entries can be deleted using the Password List Editor;
  • to change a user’s password, use the Change Windows Password applet in the Control Panel;
  • to update a user’s copy of the Start menu, copy shortcuts as necessary (installation programs would only install shortcuts in the running user’s profile).

The Windows 95 Resource Kit describes how to set user profiles up, and how they work, but doesn’t go into management detail; it’s concerned mostly with system policies which allow user profiles to be constrained.

Given that there was no file system-level protection, all this was for user convenience rather than anything else, at least when used on a non-network-connected system: users would be able to customise their settings, desktop etc. without affecting other users.

Internet Explorer 4 added a few more directories under user profiles, so that each user could have their own favourites and downloaded web pages.

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