Quick Tip: Control the console prompt and password expiration in Windows 2000

Learn to display the UNC path in a command prompt and change the password expiration period.

If you're looking for ways to separate yourself from the average support tech, here are two simple tricks to help you improve your Windows expertise. Learn to display the UNC path in a command prompt and change the password expiration period.

Display the UNC path in the console prompt
The Prompt command enables you to specify the command prompt that you see in a command console. The prompt shows the current volume and directory by default, but Windows 2000 (like all Microsoft operating systems) gives you considerable control over the console prompt. For example, you can change the > symbol in the prompt to a different character or see the current time with the current path if you like.

If you frequently work with remote shares from a console, you may want to display the network Universal Naming Convention (UNC) path as part of the prompt. This enables you to see at a glance where you're working, even if you've mapped that share to a local drive letter. Perhaps you don't recall that you've mapped drive M to \\server1\shared. With the UNC path in the prompt, you know instantly which share you're using each time you change drives, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

To echo the UNC path for the current drive, use $m in the prompt. Since it's possible that the path could take up most of the command line, you'll probably want to add a carriage return/line feed and present the command prompt on the following line. This syntax echoes the UNC path of the current path, inserts a carriage return/line feed, and displays the standard drive:path prompt:
PROMPT $m$_$p$g

Although you could enter this command each time you open a command console, you may prefer to make the prompt change automatically for each console you open. To do that, create a system variable named “prompt” and set it to $m$_$p$g.

Change the password expiration period
Like Windows NT, Windows 2000 Professional prompts you to change your password before it expires, potentially saving you time and trouble.

The following section involves editing your system registry. Using the Windows Registry Editor incorrectly can cause serious problems that can cause data loss or require you to reinstall your operating system. TechRepublic does not and will not support problems that arise from editing your registry. Use the Registry Editor and the following directions at your own risk.

In both platforms, the default setting is 14 days. That means that 14 days prior to the password's expiration, you'll be alerted to the fact that your password is about to expire and asked if you want to change it. Until you do change your password, Windows 2000 will remind you each time you log on that your password is going to expire in a certain number of days.

If you feel the 14-day default setting is too long or too short, you can change the value. To change the default period from 14 days in Windows NT, edit this registry value:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\PasswordExpiryWarning

In Windows 2000, apply the change through a group policy. This will allow the change to be applied and adjusted dynamically and more easily by the administrator, as needed. You can apply the policy at the site, domain, or Organizational Unit (OU) levels through the appropriate Active Directory console.

To change the policy locally, go to Start | Settings | Control Panel | Administrative Tools | Local Security Policy. Expand the Security Settings/Local Policies/Security Options branch and set the value of Prompt User To Change Password Before Expiration as desired.

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