How to prevent your kids from bypassing time limits

TimesUpKidz was built with security in mind. When you follow the steps below it is very difficult to defeat/hack.

Make sure each child has a Limited/Standard Windows user account. Unlike Administrator accounts, Limited/Standard users can't uninstall TimesUpKidz, change the computer clock, set time limits, or kill the program via the Windows Task Manager. You can configure Windows user accounts with the User Accounts area in the Windows Control Panel. Or click the "Manage Windows user accounts" link on the main TimesUpKidz screen.

Make sure each Administrator account has a tough-to-guess password. Administrators (that's you!) can set time limits, change the computer clock, and uninstall the program. So it is very important that these user accounts are protected with passwords that the kids don't know and can't guess. You can set your password via the User Accounts area in the Windows Control Panel. Don't forget your password, or you may need to reinstall Windows.

Sometimes parents ask "how do I put a password on the TimesUpKidz program?" It doesn't work that way. Instead you put a password on your Windows user account, as described above. When you want to set time limits, you first log on to your Windows user account (password required) and then start up the TimesUpKidz program (no password required). Don't forget to choose Log Off, Lock, or Switch User from the Windows Start menu each time you are done using the computer. A quick way to do this is to press WindowsKey+L. Otherwise one of your kids can sit down at the computer, start TimesUpKidz (just as you would), and grant themselves unlimited time or worse, uninstall the program. If you think you might forget to log off, consider password-protecting your desktop with the Windows screen saver; here are the instructions for Windows Vista/7  and Windows XP .

If you've got teenagers or very tech-savvy kids who will probably go to extreme lengths to bypass the limits you've set, consider implementing the steps below. Because following these instructions can be confusing and difficult, you might want to wait until you see that your child has bypassed the software before doing any of them.

Put a password on the hidden Administrator account. On Windows XP there is a user account named "Administrator" that is hidden, disabled, and has a blank password. But this account can be used to log on to the computer in Windows Safe Mode. To set a password on this account click Start and then click Run. Type cmd and press OK. Type net user administrator * and press Enter.

Password protect the BIOS. In order for TimesUpKidz to properly enforce time limits, it needs to know the correct time. It determines the time by using the computer's hardware clock. Once Windows has started, Windows prevents people with Limited/Standard user accounts from changing the time. But it is possible to change the clock by bypassing Microsoft Windows and accessing the computer manufacturer's "BIOS Setup" screen. The BIOS Setup screen is a place where you can change the computer clock and configure other low-level items that affect the functioning of the computer. Likewise, it is possible for very tech-savvy kids to bypass Microsoft Windows entirely by booting the computer from a CD/DVD with a different operating system, and then tampering with Microsoft Windows or using an alternate operating system. To prevent these types of sophisticated attacks, configure the hardware BIOS settings to boot first from the hard disk rather than from a floppy disk or CD/DVD. And then password-protect the hardware BIOS settings to prevent tampering with the clock and boot sequence. The specific way you enter the BIOS varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. On some Dell computers, for example, a small message says "Press F2 for Setup" immediately after you turn on the computer. Usually the message disappears after being shown for just a second or two, so you may need to reboot the computer repeatedly, or look at the computer manufacturer's web site to figure out how to get into the BIOS. If you set a password on the BIOS, it is extremely important that you do not forget the BIOS password.

A child can bypass TimesUpKidz by reinstalling Windows from scratch, which will wipe out TimesUpKidz and any other program on the computer. Similarly a child could use a "restore" or "backup" diskette and revert the computer to the way it used to be before you installed TimesUpKidz. Consider hiding the Windows installation CD and other restore/backup diskettes.