Three easy ways to separate work and play on the same PC

If you've got strict divisions between your work and play identities online, what's the easiest way to keep the two worlds from colliding?

All of us lead double lives these days since we both work and play online. During the day you may be working on a company document in Google Drive, while at night you're kicking back and chatting with friends on Skype.

Many of us also end up using our personal PCs to work on company projects from home. And that brings up the issue: How can you separate your work and life identities on the same PC?

If you work in a major enterprise, your IT department probably has rules in place to deal with this issue already. But if you work for a smaller company, you may be left to fend for yourself.

If that's the case, here are three suggestions of how you can keep from mixing business with pleasure on the same Windows device.

Different browsers

One of the easiest ways to separate work and play is to just use separate browsers for each task. The best candidates for this kind of activity would be Chrome and Firefox, because both browsers have sync capabilities letting you share browser histories, favorites, bookmarks and open tabs across devices.

The biggest downside to this approach is that you can only have one default browser at a time. Let's say you choose Chrome for your work browser and Firefox for play, with Chrome set as the default.

Later that evening, a friend sends you a link to a great movie on Netflix via Skype. You click the link as you normally do and your work browser opens because it's set as the default. To get around this, right-click links in other apps and then copy and paste them into Firefox.

If juggling two different browser for different purposes doesn't appeal to you another alternative is to create multiple profiles in your default browser. We already took a look at how to create and manage multiple profiles in Chrome. Firefox also supports multiple profiles, but the process is a little more involved. You can find instructions on Mozilla's site.

Multiple Windows user accounts

This option is perhaps the biggest hassle to set-up, but is ultimately easy to use. Take the time to create different user accounts on your Windows PC for your work and personal life.

When it's time to work you can login to the work account with all the defaults and necessary files ready to go. Then, when it's time to kick back, log in to your play account for an all-night Titanfall session.

In Windows 7, you can add a new user account through the Control Panel. For Windows 8.1, open the modern UI Settings app by tapping Windows Logo Key + C to open the Charms bar. Then navigate to Settings>Change PC settings>Accounts>Other Accounts.

Now click Add an account and at the bottom of the next screen select Sign in without a Microsoft account (not recommended).

Finally, at the bottom of the next screen choose Local account and follow the instructions.

If you're just creating an account for play a local account should be enough for most people. If you want to go through the hassle of setting up another Microsoft account to sync settings on two separate accounts just follow the initial onscreen wizard that asks for an email address.

Multiple Google accounts

If you're a hard core Google user, another way to manage your double life is to have two separate Google accounts and switch between them. Google sites have a built-in feature that lets you switch between accounts as long as you understand the rules.

Rule number 1 

Whichever Google account you signed in with first is the default account whenever you navigate directly to a Google site.

If you signed in with, for example, and then later signed in with, what happens when you type into your browser? You'd see the joeWork account's Google+ profile, because that's your default account.

To sign in with multiple accounts, first decide which account (work or personal) you want to be the default. Next, sign in to your chosen default account as you normally would. Let's say we chose the work account and we signed in with Gmail.

At the top right of the Gmail inbox, click on your profile photo to reveal a drop down menu then click Add account and sign-in with your secondary account, which in our case is the personal account.

As I said earlier, whenever you navigate to a Google site such as Google Drive or Gmail, you will automatically drop in to your default account (in our case the work account).

What if you want to see your personal account's Google+ page?

Rule number 2 

To view the personal account's Google+ page you can either follow a link from another joePersonal account page such as the Gmail inbox. Or you can use the account switching function at the top right of the page.

Following links should be fairly self-explanatory, so let's deal with the account switcher. On Google+, click your profile photo at the top right side of the page. Now, you'll see that your personal account is listed right under your default work account. To switch accounts, just select the personal account and your non-professional Google+ page opens up in a new tab.

Those are the basics for switching between Google accounts, but there are two other key things you need to know about using this method. First, Google Drive does not support multiple accounts. That means that if you sign-in with your work account, you will have to sign out and sign back in to access your personal account's Google Drive files.

Warning: If you use the Google Drive desktop app switching between accounts can be very problematic

The second problem is that while YouTube does support multiple accounts, it does not integrate with the rest of the Google universe. So if you want to switch between your work and personal accounts on YouTube, you'll have to go through the process of adding your personal account separately on YouTube.

On top of that, YouTube doesn't play favorites with your accounts meaning there is no default account on YouTube. Whichever account you used last on YouTube that's the one you'll see the next time you visit the site.

Managing multiple Google accounts is admittedly a little messy, but for Googleaholics out there, it may be the best choice.

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