Thursday, November 20, 2008

How To run Multiple Versions of the Same Program on your PC

I was asked in the comments of a previous post how I managed to run multiple versions of Skype at the same time and while answering him, I thought it was worth turning my answer into a post. It isn’t just Skype that this can be used for. You can also use this method to run multiple versions of your favourite instant messaging program (if you have more than one ID) or multiple versions of your internet browser if you have more than one email account with the same provider. For instance, using this tip you can access multiple gmail accounts at the same time.

With the Windows operating system, everything runs under a user account which you log into when you boot up the computer. Say for the purposes of this discussion, my main default user account on my PC is MARK_1. Well when I boot up the PC in the morning, MARK_1 will load and all programs I subsequently use will run under MARK_1.

But I sometimes help out a friend who runs a virtual telephone answering service through Skype. So obviously only one Skype line isn’t going to cut it. To open more Skype lines (without having to log in and out of Windows all the time), here’s what you do :


First, you need to set up more Windows user accounts. To make this simple, I’ll name them MARK_2, MARK_3 and so on. Since I have a German language computer, I can’t really post too many screenshots and I am unsure of the terminology on an English language computer so I will describe it to you in general terms and perhaps you can tell me the exact wording. In the Windows start menu, you have a “System Setup” option and in there is an option called “User Accounts”. This is where you maintain your Windows accounts, including the main administrator account.

Just open that option up, choose the new account option and set up as many new accounts as you need. YOU DON’T HAVE TO LOG OUT OF YOUR CURRENT USER ACCOUNT TO DO THIS! Plus you need to have administrator privileges to set up new accounts. So trying this at work is probably not a good idea as your IT department will probably not appreciate it.

runas.gifOnce the accounts are set up, go to the desktop icon (or the start menu link) of the program you want to start again and choose “run as”. This will open up a sign-in box with a drop-down list of your user accounts (which by now should contain the new ones you have just created). Just choose another account, enter the password (if you set one up during the account creation process) and the program will instantly open again under that new windows user account.

Using this method, I have run up to five Skype lines simultaneously and the ICQ chat program three times (although I am sure more is possible if you have the CPU capacity to support them all). As I said before, you can also use this method to run more than one Firefox browser to check email accounts or perhaps you want to be logged in as two different users in a social network? The possibilities for running more than one Windows user account is endless.

Can you think of other scenarios where running more than one user account would be beneficial? Let’s hear it in the comments!

By: Mark O’Neill is a freelance writer, proofreader and blogger. Visit his blog at

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