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Boot up Windows before you even log in

If you don’t use any Windows XP login security, then you can skip this article. Otherwise, if you are like many Windows XP users who have to enter a password every time their computer sluggishly boots up, then read this!

Ok. Here’s the scenario:

You have to wait 2 minutes while your computer turns on. You have to sit in front of your computer during this whole time because once it finally gets to the login screen, you have to type in the password. The computer then crunches numbers for another 2 minutes while it loads a wide variety of programs (MSN messenger, your Norton Antivirus, your Microsoft Office shortcut bar, etc…). Finally, after like 5 minutes, you have access to your desktop.

How would you like your computer to load all those programs *before* you ever have to enter your password? You could press the button to power up your system and go get a cup of coffee. Five minutes later, you come to your desk and type in your password. BAM! Instantly dropped to the desktop! Your programs are already running and all systems are a go!

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Download Microsoft’s free TweakUI tool and install it.
  2. Click your Start button, go to your Programs menu, and select Tweak UI from the “Powertoys for Windows XP” folder.
  3. In the TweakUI window, double-click the “Logon” item in the left-hand column to expand it.
  4. Click on the “Autologon” item underneath the “Logon” section.
  5. Check the box that says “Log on automatically at system startup”
  6. Click the “Set Password” button and enter in your windows login password
  7. Click OK and close Tweak UI.
  8. Download this .reg file and run it. When it asks you if you want to merge it with your registry, choose “Yes”.

    NOTE: If you feel queasy about merging a reg file with your registry, you can also add it by hand. Go to Start > Run and type in “regedit” and press OK. Browse to [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run] and create a new String Value. Name it “Lock Computer on Startup“, and set the value to “rundll32.exe user32.dll, LockWorkStation

Presto! You’re done!

Now, when you boot up your computer, it will automatically log you in to your desktop and start up your programs. However, it will still secure your system, requiring you to enter your password to access it.

By Thomas Chapin

24 year old guy (as of 09/24/2007) who has been in the design business since the age of 11. First corporate web site created at the age of 13. Worked at DSBWorldWide, Inc. for 9 years. Moved to Arizona in November of 2005 to be a business partner/web developer at Tornado Design.

40 replies on “Boot up Windows before you even log in”

Not really a secure solution. Your password will be in cleartex stored in the registry. You might also be able to hack into the computer by preventing the lock computer task from starting properly.

Hello,
Just a little question, the security policy request me of changing my pass every 3 month. What happen in case of autologon with out of date login ?
Regards,
Benoit

Nice..but..obviously, this will only work WELL for a single-user system. For systems that are used by multiple people, this is going to load up and then lock the desktop to anyone who’s not the ‘Tweaker’ or lacks administrator privs to override the logged-in session… Still, for a purely one-person machine, good enough to get the job done I suppose!

So what if someone happens to hop on my computer after it logs in automatically but before it locks and stops “undll32.exe user32.dll, LockWorkStation” from executing?

Although this works pretty much as advertised users should be aware that this workaround will leave your computer unprotected and unlocked during the period of time in between log on and the running of user32.dll.

On some machines this period of time is very brief – on others it is lenghthy enough for an unauthorized person to do harm.

During this period of time the computer responds exactly as if you yourself had logged on. The keyboard, mouse, drive access, etc are all enabled.

For example – during the brief window the computer is unprotected a person walking by could create a new administrator account on your computer, edit the registry to remove the user32.dll autorun, install a keylogger, set Microsoft Office to automatically BCC every email you send out to another address, etc.

Waiting until your computer is fully locked before wandering off doesn’t help either as all a savvy user has to do is restart the machine in order to access the window of vulnerability.

In short, be wary of using this if anyone else has physical access to your computer.

It’s causing problems with my startup programs and I want to reverse this, how do i go about doing so?

To reverse the registry entry, just click your Start button and go to Run. Type in “msconfig” and press ok. Go over to the startup tab and scroll down to where it says “Lock Computer on Startup” and un-check this entry. Ok your way out, and you’re done.

every time I’ve ever used the hibernate feature, I get glitches in my programs after coming back from hibernation.

I’ve used hibernation on at least 10 different computers and they always ended up glitching from it eventually.

Basically microsoft dumps an image of your RAM to the hard drive, and then shuts everything down. Then when you turn on your computer, it loads everything back into RAM.

The only problem with this is that sometimes calculations in programs are time-based. So when you restore your computer later on, sometimes things don’t synch up properly.

Or at least that’s my theory on the subject.

I’m just curious,

How does one discover these new values to add to the Registry? Since the value wasn’t there to begin with in the Registry and had to be added, it must be documented somewhere? Where?

Oh never mind. I see.
It’s just a start program.

How about calling a DLL function that does a “Switch User” so that it doesn’t lock the workstation but just switches out to the Windows Welcome/Logon screen?

Supposedly, if you have Fast User Switching enabled, then when it locks the computer, it will go to the user login screen, allowing any of the other users to access the computer if they need to. However, your desktop will be loaded in the background for instant access whenever you want to switch back to it.

This is bad advice on so many levels. First of all, if it takes you 5 minutes to get to your desktop on bootup, and you have a relatively recent machine, there’s something seriously wrong. Contact a qualified professional (not the neighbor’s kid who’s “good with computers”) to fix your problems. It takes less than a minute for my machine to go from power on to desktop. That’s normal. Anything longer than that is NOT normal.

Secondly, putting your password in clear text in the registry is a terrible idea. Is it the same password you use for your bank’s online system? Is it the same one you use for your e-mail? Did you disable the Remote Registry service on your computer before you did it? Do you know what the Remote Registry service is? If not, you shouldn’t be following these instructions.

Finally, as somone else pointed out, your machine will be logged in with your credentials for a few minutes with this method before it actually locks the machine. A few minutes is more than enough time for someone to do some damage.

Misinformation is significantly more dangerous than any virus, trojan or hacker on the ‘Net.

I’m a bit curious about the remarks about storing the password as cleartext in the registry. TweakUI clearly says “the password is stored in encrypted form”. Do you folks know something I don’t?