Administrative Privileges

What Does Administrative Privileges Mean?

Administrative privileges are the ability to make major changes to a system, typically an operating system. It can also mean large software programs such as a database management system. In modern operating systems, administrative privileges are accessed using a privilege escalation tool where users must supply an administrative password, such as UAC on Windows or sudo in Linux systems.


Techopedia Explains Administrative Privileges

Modern operating systems need to protect themselves against damage to important configuration files and unauthorized changes. The major way they do this is through administrative privileges that divide users into ordinary users and administrators. Administrators can make changes to the system’s configuration, add and remove programs, access any file and manage other users on the system. Administrative users typically must authenticate themselves before performing major changes. Windows uses UAC (User Account Control) to ask users to confirm an administrative task. Mac OS X and Linux use sudo to ask administrative users for a password.

Other large software packages with many users also distinguish between ordinary users and administrators. These are typically database management systems like Oracle and MySQL.


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Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.