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Standalone Utility: Working with User Accounts

Selecting the User Account to be Processed

The first step of all features listed under the title Work with User Accounts in the main menu must be to choose the account on which the operation should take place. In case you did not use any user-related functions since starting the system, it will also be necessary to let the program launch specific parts of the user management of Mac OS X and certain other required auxiliary services. This procedure can take a few seconds and will be accompanied by several internal status messages of Mac OS X. The program begins this operation with the message Waiting for required system service to start… .

Afterwards, a message like the following will appear:

Please select which user account you like to work with:
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    [501]   admin
    [502]   john
    [503]   maria
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Enter one of the numbers to continue or 'c' to cancel:

The table contains all visible user accounts available on the local computer. The numbers in the first column are identification numbers which Mac OS X is using to manage each account. You can select a user account by entering this identification number and then pressing the return key. By entering any letter and hitting the return key, the operation will be canceled prematurely.

Under normal circumstances, the table contains visible local users only. System accounts of the operating system won’t be displayed. Moreover, no roaming network users are included in the table. Experienced system administrators can have network users included by binding the system to the respective directory service via command-line, and by mounting the users’ home folders.

Deactivating Corrupt Preference Files

You can instruct the standalone utility to verify all preference files of a user, and deactivate all files which are detected from the outside as being corrupt. Nothing will be deleted during this step. The damaged files will be deactivated by renaming them, so that they can no longer have any effect on Mac OS X and applications which use the affected preferences. This is equivalent to a strongly simplified version of the feature User > Preferences > Check Files of TinkerTool System.

  1. In the main menu, type 2 to choose Work with User Accounts.
  2. Type 1 to call the function Deactivate Corrupted Preference Files.
  3. Choose a user account for the operation, as mentioned above.
  4. Wait until the final results of the verification or repair steps are shown on screen.

Deleting User-Related Input Managers

So-called Input Managers have been originally designed in the early days of Mac OS X to give software vendors the possibility to create new input methods, exceeding conventional control via keyboard and mouse, adding them system-wide to all applications on the graphical user interface. This way, things like gesture control, advanced internationalization, or support for handicapped users could be added. Unfortunately, this feature of Mac OS X has been misused in practice by some software vendors to perform manipulations on running applications, with the only purpose of an Input Manager to overwrite code of programs, injecting foreign code from the outside.

Such manipulations can already be dangerous at the technical level, because in the general case, neither the vendor of an Input Manager, nor the vendor of an involuntarily manipulated application can predict in detail how the final result will behave. This becomes even more dangerous if Input Managers are not created for harmless purposes, but to work as viruses or Trojan horses. Due to their ability to be loaded into running programs, they can spread very fast, giving them the chance to cause arbitrary negative effects in all graphical applications, without the necessity for files to be modified on the hard disk.

As reaction on these dangers, Apple has limited the use of Input Managers as of Mac OS X 10.5: When using modern 64-bit applications on a 64-bit processor, Input Managers cannot become active any longer. Within 32-bit applications, Input Managers can only become active if their file permissions indicate that they must have been knowingly installed by a system administrator.

TinkerTool System uses multiple security measures to detect Input Managers as such. The program will display a security warning when foreign code has been loaded into the protected memory of TinkerTool System. If you have decided as result of this warning or due to the general dangers of Input Managers to remove them completely from your system, this will be possible with the feature Delete User-Related Input Managers in the standalone application. Because the standalone program itself is running “non-graphically”, it is always protected against possible negative effects of Input Managers. Perform the following steps to delete all Input Managers which have been installed for a specific user without looking at them:

  1. In the main menu, type 2 to choose Work with User Accounts.
  2. Type 2 to call the function Delete User-Related Input Managers.
  3. Choose a user account for the operation, as mentioned above.
  4. Wait until the final results of the verification or deletion are shown on screen.

Input Managers can additionally be installed system-wide, i.e. for all user accounts. To delete such components as well, a corresponding menu item is available at Administration and Repair.

Deactivating All Caches of a User

As described in the chapter Caches, damaged cache contents can lead to errors during the execution of programs in individual cases. The standalone program can completely deactivate the personal standard caches of a user account if desired. Nothing is deleted, so the valuable cache contents can be restored in case of doubt to maintain a high operation speed of the system. Perform the following steps to deactivate the personal standard caches of a user temporarily or permanently:

  1. In the main menu, type 2 to choose Work with User Accounts.
  2. Type 3 to call the function Deactivate All Caches of a User.
  3. Choose a user account for the operation, as mentioned above.
  4. Wait until the final results of the deactivation are shown on screen.

Reactivating All Caches of a User

After removing the contents of caches, Mac OS X and many applications will run slower because the caches must be rebuilt internally. If deactivation of caches (from the previous section) did not have the expected success, the affected data can be restored completely by a simple key press, avoiding loss of performance.

  1. In the main menu, type 2 to choose Work with User Accounts.
  2. Type 4 to call the function Reactivate All Caches of a User.
  3. Choose a user account for the operation, as mentioned above. It must be a user account where the deactivation feature has been used in the recent past.
  4. Wait until the final results of the reactivation are shown on screen.

Deactivating All Preferences of a User

Preference settings of user can be damaged in such a way that their outer appearance is still correct, however the internal meaning of the stored information might be inconsistent. In rare cases, this can cause applications to behave erratically or not to launch at all. If such a problem cannot be isolated to a specific application, a last resort to troubleshoot the error might be to temporarily deactivate all preference settings of a user. All applications started by this user will run with “fresh” manufacturer defaults afterwards. When deactivating preferences, the settings will not really be deleted, so that they can be restored in case of doubt later.

  1. In the main menu, type 2 to choose Work with User Accounts.
  2. Type 5 to call the function Deactivate All Preferences of a User.
  3. Choose a user account for the operation, as mentioned above.
  4. Wait until the final results of the deactivation are shown on screen.

Reactivating All Preferences of a User

In case you find out that deactivating all preferences (from the previous section) did not have the expected effect, all preferences can be restored completely (to the status of the time the deactivation procedure occurred). Perform the following steps:

  1. In the main menu, type 2 to choose Work with User Accounts.
  2. Type 6 to call the function Reactivate All Preferences of a User.
  3. Choose a user account for the operation, as mentioned above. It must be a user account where the deactivation feature has been used in the recent past.
  4. Wait until the final results of the reactivation are shown on screen.