A client of mine recently had a strange issue on Windows 7 where he was unable to switch between users using the normal procedure. By default, if you click Start and then click the little arrow next to Shutdown, you can select Change User as shown below:
If this setting is disabled or grayed out on your Windows 7 system, there are several things you can do to fix it. If you are on a domain and want to be able to use Fast User Switching, you can, but you need to edit your Group Policy. Depending on your company, you may or may not be able to do this.
Also note that you can no longer edit this Fast User Switching GUI option in Windows 7. Windows XP had this option, but for some reason it was not in Windows 7. So you need to edit the registry or Group Policy to make it work. I also mentioned a small utility that you can use if you don’t like editing the registry.
Method 1 – Registry Hack
You can re-enable the Switch User setting by going to the following registry key:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SOFTWARE Microsoft Windows CurrentVersion Policies System
You should see a HideFastUserSwitching value with a value of 1. A value of 1 means that user switching is disabled. To enable it, change this value to 0. Note that if you don’t have the HideFastUserSwitching key at all, you can create one by right-clicking anywhere in an empty space in the right pane and choosing New – DWORD (32-bit) Value.
Set the value to 0 and exit the registry. You will need to log out and then log back in for the changes to take effect. When you click the arrow next to the Shut Down button, it should be enabled.
The second method – edit group policy
If you are on a domain, you will have to edit your local security policy. You can do this by clicking Start and entering gpedit.msc to open the Group Policy Editor. Once opened, navigate to the following section:
Local Computer Policy – Computer Configuration – Administrative Templates – System – Login
Here you will see the option Hide entry points to quickly switch users. Make sure this setting is disabled so that users can quickly switch to work.
Restart your computer and see if you can switch users now. If you see the Group Policy setting automatically reverted back to what it was before, that means your IT department has configured it and you cannot change the setting yourself. Or you can try unplugging your computer before restarting. Thus, your company policies cannot be applied to your computer at boot if it comes from a server.
Method 3 – Download the User Switcher
Update: This tool is no longer available to developers and has been removed from their site.
Microsoft MVP has created a small tool that simply switches users on every launch. You can download it here:
After extracting it, just copy the file somewhere on your hard drive and then create a shortcut on your desktop or elsewhere. Then just launch the shortcut and it will automatically take you to the change user screen where you can click on the account you want to log into.
So that should be all you need to enable user switching on a Windows 7 machine. If you have any problems, leave a comment here and I’ll try to help! Enjoy!