Updated: October 12, 2016
Many moons ago, I tested a nifty little tool for Windows XP called SuRun, which emulates the concept of sudo in Linux, except you do in a Microsoft operating system, with grace and elegance. I've always advocated setting up systems as a limited user, but it often presents an administrative challenge, due to the overhead associated with running multiple accounts.
SuRun solved the problem, and eight years later, I'm still using it in my virtualized Windows XP, to see how well this operating system weathers the challenges of modernity. But you may ask, what about Windows 7 and onwards? Well, looking at the project site, it does not mention anything, but the Sourceforge page seems to cover all recent Windows releases. And so we're testing.
Setup and whatnot
There will be some snags. The first one is, screenshots. One, they are identical to what I've shown you in Windows XP, with only a few tiny exceptions. Two, you can't really take screenshots of privilege elevation prompts on a physical system, and since I was testing on a real laptop, there ain't gonna be too many screenshots. Soz.
The second one is, how do you use SuRun on Windows 7, and how does it stack against the classic setup of a standard user and occasional prompts for admin password, especially since the administrator is not enabled by default? Hence the snags.
The installation was quick and simple. Then, I added my user to the SuRunners groups so that we can sudo to it when needed. However, unlike Windows XP, it did not offer to change the account type to a standard user.
To be able to use SuRun on Windows 7, you will need to do a bit of homework. The first piece is to enable your administrator account. There are many ways and hacks to achieve this, but the simplest one is to run lusrmgr.msc (Local Users and Groups) from the command prompt or Windows search.
Enable your administrator account, SET a password, log off, then log in as the admin. Then, you can do the standard account management through the Control Panel, and change your original user.
If you're comfortable, you can make it all in one go. In the User Manager interface, you can change your own user, too, but make sure you have enabled the administrator account so you do not accidentally lock yourself out. It is VERY important that you not just remove yourself from the Administrators group but also ADD yourself to the Users group.
This may sound convoluted, but in essence:
- Enable admin (lusrmgr), set password (CP)
- Remove current user from Administrators
- Add current user to Users
- Log off and test
SuRun versus Windows prompts
And so I started testing, all permutations. First, admin enabled and SuRun. You can choose either Run as administrator, which is a Windows feature, or Start as Administrator, which is a SuRun function. Either one works without any problems, and I was able to do anything and everything. Second, with admin disabled, the Windows prompt does not work, but you can still use SuRun with all the beauty and grace of sudo. There were no bugs, clashes or conflicts. If and when I'd execute something with admin credentials, Surun would notify me with an unhappy face.
So which one?
And that's a really good question. SuRun has been around for a long while, and it seems to work very well. But it is still an unofficial tool. With Windows XP, it did wonders, and it really transformed a somewhat clunky limited account method into a seamless and powerful model.
With Windows 7 onwards, the need for this is much reduced, as you can elevate privileges without any great fuss, and most common applications seem to agree and behave pretty well overall. Plus, it's an official method, and Microsoft fully supports it in their systems. But then again, it does necessitate having an admin account alive and kicking, and there could be some problems with that potentially. The concept of sudo is really really neat.
With great uncertainty, it is time to finish this article. But worry not, I will give you my recommendation. If you can afford time to test, I suggest you do give SuRun a try, and once you build confidence, you should disable the Administrator account and only use this tool as your method of privilege elevation. System imaging and backups are a must.
Be aware that this is still something quite out of ordinary. It does not mean it's bad, but there are implications in doing special, nerdy things. All in all, I've never had issues with SuRun, but that's not necessarily good enough for you. The only really convincing argument is that you should spend a fair amount of time playing with it, using it, go through a few WU cycles, and only then decide if its convenience and simplicity outweighs your current habits. Overall, 'tis a very nice tool, and eight years down the memory lane, it still performs quite well in this brave, modern world. For techies out there, this should definitely be on your to-do and to-use list. There.