System administrator accounts

What are system administrator accounts?

System administrator accounts are local administrator accounts that the Arts Computing Office (ACO) provides in exceptional circumstances to provide the necessary privileges for individuals to install, configure, and run elevated programs on a Windows or Mac computer. Standard Nexus user accounts do not have administrative privileges, so users may require system administrator accounts to perform these actions.

Why is administrative access not given by default?

Standard user accounts are restricted in their capability to limit the effects of security problems that can occur on any computer system. Standard user accounts have less access to integral components of the system, and therefore leave little opportunity for malicious software to do damage. Additionally, standard accounts are prevented from installing programs on a computer that may conflict with ACO-managed software. ACO staff can usually install software on computers with reasonably rapid turn-around, often with little or no inconvenience to you.

What criteria must be met to qualify for a system administrator account?

If a one-time installation or configuration is required, an ACO ​Help Desk assistant or other member of ACO staff will perform the installation, rather than providing a system administrator account. Many commonly used software applications are available from the ACO and can be pushed out to your computer upon request, sometimes requiring a reboot.

For both Mac and Windows computers, at least one of the following criteria must be met:

  • You need to frequently update or upgrade software programs not packaged and kept up to date by ACO staff.

  • The computer is off campus for prolonged periods of time.

  • The software or equivalent alternative software is not already provided by ACO. See the Available Software page for a list of some ACO-managed software (if you do not see the software you are looking for please check with the ACO Help Desk for it).

  • ACO staff cannot personally push out updates for the software to your computer.

Department-specific exceptions

To install software on any computer managed by the Psychology department, staff and faculty members must contact Psychology IT Support at The Arts Computing Office (ACO) does not provide system administrator accounts on Psychology department computers.

System administrator account use

  • To install, configure, or run software from your standard Nexus account, simply enter your system administrator account credentials when prompted.

  • Only download software and files from reliable sources. As mentioned before, downloading and installing software leaves your computer vulnerable to viruses and malware. Therefore any suspicious looking software should be avoided or investigated before installing.

Never change your system administrative password on a Nexus machine

This password will automatically change on a scheduled basis. Changing it incorrectly may cause the account to be unusable. 

Mac Password Requirements

Upon first use, you will need to set a password for your system administrator account that is distinct from your WatIAM/Nexus password. Please review the University of Waterloo's password standards when creating your system administrator password. 

​To change your system administrator password on a Mac

  1. Log in to your system administrator account (this is the only time you should do this).

  2. Go to system and preferences and select users and groups.

  3. Select the change password icon.

  4. A new window will appear, enter in the old password and then the new password twice.

  5. Click the change password button.

Arts Local Administrator Password (LAPS)

LAPS is needed whenever an Arts Windows system needs admin credentials. This may be useful for manually installing an application not through the Software Center. For faculty or staff wanting any applications from the internet, ask an ACO staff member if it is worthwhile to add it to their system through the Software Center. Faculty and staff may contact the Help Desk to get someone to help them input admin credentials.  Alternatively, an admin account can be requested through

How do faculty and staff request system administrator accounts?

Faculty and staff that require a system administrator account must contact the ACO management group at and provide details on why and for which programs they require a system administrator account. ACO management will determine whether or not the use of a system administrator account is required and create a Request Tracker (RT) ticket for the creation of a system administrator account, if necessary.

Live chat

Computing questions? Connect with the Arts Computing Office Help Desk on our live chat! Available Monday to Friday, 9:30AM - 4:30PM, with some exceptions.