Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Many programs require that you be administrator in order to install. If you're not, you have few options. Most boil down to: be the administrator.

I'm trying to run in a "safe" limited user account, but I often find that I need to install something - which I can't. Is there a way I can install software on my machine without having to be the administrator?

This can be a very frustrating situation, I know. I have machines where the primary account is an administrator simply because of the frequent irritation of application updates and installations that require it.

I will cut to the chase and say that if an application you're attempting to install is failing because you're not the administrator your only recourse is to login as the administrator. Or perhaps not install the application at all.

In other words, you're basically screwed.

The big variable is the program that you're attempting to install. They fall into three buckets:

"... if an application you're attempting to install is failing because you're not the administrator your only recourse is to login as the administrator."
  • Programs that don't need administrative access and don't ask for it. They just install or update happily as needed.

  • Programs that do need administrative access. I at least understand these programs. Perhaps they're installing or updating device drivers, secure areas of the system or registry, or who knows what. Basically the whole point of running as a limited user is to prevent this kind of access by accident. It makes sense that they would be blocked and warrant the extra scrutiny of someone who would login as administrator.

  • Programs that don't need administrative access and ask for it anyway. Why, for example, do I have to be administrator to update MSN Instant Messenger? This is the frustrating bucket.

One clarification: even though I've said program's "ask" for administrative access, under Windows XP, at least that's really just a simplification. Most just try to do something administrative in nature, and that either works or fails if the user isn't logged in as administrator.

Now there's a very strong argument that installing any software should be totally restricted to administrators. I'd even go along with that if it weren't so darned impractical under XP. It seems every day or so something wants to update, requiring that the user logout from their limited user account and login as administrator. (Or wait until the person with administrative access can do so.)

The good news is that I believe that there's hope on the horizon.

Much like Linux and the Mac, rather than forcing you to log out and log in as administrator, Windows Vista will prompt you for the Administrative password if administrative access is needed. Yes, you still need to know that password, so it's not a free ticket for the kids to install something that mom or dad have hopefully protected the computer against. But it is a step in the right direction to both secure the system while minimizing the inconvenience.

I know that this "feature" of Vista tends to pop up a little too often for some people, but when it comes to installing software, the approach makes sense to me.

Article C3139 - September 4, 2007 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Chris Spencer
September 4, 2007 11:59 PM

I don't agree with your "frustrating bucket" point. The whole purpose of limited accounts is to restrict access which in general isn't needed (such as writing to system directories like C:\Program Files). Updating MSN Messenger naturally needs to change these files so needs to have write access to that folder.

Admittedly the Windows XP implementation is very poor because you can't log in as an administrator temporarily within your session.

Now what is frustrating is poorly written programs that need administrator access when they shouldn't really need it at all. That just stems from the fact that traditionally every user is an administrator. I very poor policy on Windows' part.

September 5, 2007 5:40 AM

If you're running 2000, XP, or 2003 server; you can use runas, which lets you run a program as a different user whilst staying logged in.

September 5, 2007 10:47 AM

No need to download a "runas" program. Simply right-click the program's icon and select the "run as" choice. I do this all the time on my kids' computers, where the younger ones use a "restricted" account.

If it's on an auto-run CD, you need to go to "my computer", right-click the drive's icon and select "open" (rather than "autorun"), and examine the "autorun.inf" file to see which program to run.

September 6, 2007 10:22 AM

Ken: when you right-click the program and select "run as...", the resulting dialogue calls the runas.exe program that I refer to in my post; that's how it works. Of course there's no need to download it; it's been a part of Windows since Windows 2000.

September 9, 2007 11:13 PM

I agree with Ken and Simon regarding exe's but when the program is a .msi install file you won'nt find the runas option when u right click on the icon.No problem write the runas command to start a command prompt(cmd.exe) remember the command prompt with admin previleges is a powerful tool its true that this command line cannot do a list of simle things.Ok this is the command >runas /env /user:administrator "cmd.exe" if you are in a domain and need domain admin previleges then the command >runas /env /user:mydomain\administrator "cmd.exe" These will open a command line with admin previleges then simply navigate to the .msi file and type >msiexec /i myapplication.msi .That's it its very simple!.Always remember that it is a good practice to use the machine with a restricted user previlege account to avoid attacks from viruses,hackers,malware... .etc.Read this article for more information.It also provides you a solution as to how you should run programs that need an administrator previlege.

September 10, 2007 10:52 PM

I have to tell you, I once tried running in a limited account but it turned out to be more of a hassle than it was worth, I feel if you use due diligence handling downloads(like scanning every file multiple times before trusting it), you've covered your ass pretty good. It seems to me that for a home user to run a limited account is abit paranoid, I don't think I've ever installed a program w/o knowing

Sam Hobbs
December 19, 2007 10:16 AM

I am a developer that has always used a limited account for everything I don't need Administrator privileges for. I prefer to use the Administrator account to install software since I hope that the software will install for "All Users".

Kelly S. S.
July 20, 2008 9:09 PM

If say one day I log into my windows XP Packg.II,
And I TRY to change my mothers Picture Icon, & Her desktop to another picture; Something she can't do for herself, I am the 'ADMINISTRATOR', BUT........I have NO IDEA HOW I got this 'Frustrating ADMINISTRATOR' Thing Opened in the first place?! HOW Can I Remove Myself as the ADMINISTRATOR?? Please. It's driving me, and Mother CRAZY!!
Kelly S.S.

July 30, 2008 3:36 PM

Its no great shakes in XP to simply switch user and and log in as Administrator to instal the MSI (as I did two minutes ago), log out of Administrator and back to your regular user account.

In answer to Kelly SS, set yourself up as a Poweruser and leave the Administrator account hidden.

November 2, 2008 10:34 AM

how I install Massanger yahoo without administrator installtion

Sam J.
November 10, 2008 3:50 PM

I am the only user on this *)#@ Vista machine, and when running certain programs I get the message "Need Administrator Privileges". I AM The administrator and there is only one user account, mine! How do I get around this ?

ken swor
November 25, 2008 5:00 AM

I try to download veterans forms and vista want let me, how can I get through this block.

Ahmed Ziyadh
December 28, 2008 2:01 AM

How can i install winrar on my pc. actually i have a limited account in server.

May 19, 2009 12:21 PM

This post is not helpful to those who searching for a solution to install a program without administrator privilages. please look for something else.

Sorry you feel that way, but if a program requires administrative access to install, it requires administrative access to install. If you don't have administrative access you can't install it. Complain to the provider of the program.
- Leo
August 10, 2009 11:48 PM

this discusses some workarounds:

October 26, 2009 3:20 AM

This post is really not helpful to those who are searching for a solution to install a program without administrator privileges.
And Leo's answer is not right, there's always an answer to some of these issues, take a look

December 12, 2009 10:46 PM
Yes you can use applications without adminsistrator access

Well there are some simple basic things to know. Earlier it was not possible to acheive this but with the advancement in technology now you can use your favourite applications on any computer in the world. you just need to have internet connection and a user account in that PC(only windows)

Okay coming to the solution of the problem, you can use portable versions of the software that you want to use on the internet and if they are not available you can create your own portable applications and host them for free on internet and which can be accessed by anyone in the world anywhere. Just read my how to do this post at

April 2, 2011 8:33 PM

I use runas and if i want to enter the administrator account with password automatically i use this tool
But sure.
1) you need the administrator account with password to install an application
2) normaly an application should be run with standard rights. But some applications cannot run without administrator rights. So i use runasspc

December 1, 2011 7:36 AM

Well I installed as an administrator but somehow cannot use the same as a limited user; it keeps requesting for installation. How do I do this now?

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