Automatically log in to Vista and still be password protected

In this edition of the Windows Vista report, Greg Shultz shows you how you can take advantage of the automatic logon procedure described previously while still keeping your Windows Vista system password protected.

In last week's edition of the Windows Vista Report, Bypass the Windows Vista's logon procedure, I showed you how to access a hidden tool called the Advanced User Accounts Control Panel and configure your system to automatically log you on when it starts up. In a nutshell, this simply involves selecting your name in the User Accounts dialog box and clearing the Users Must Enter A User Name And Password To Use This Computer check box.

Of course, as I mentioned in that post, configuring an automatic logon procedure really only makes sense in a home setting where you're the only one who ever uses your Windows Vista system. (This technique will not work in your Windows Vista system is connected to a domain.

After the post was published, several readers commented that they thought that this technique was unwise because it left your system wide open to anyone who may happen to get access to your computer. Of course, this technique, while providing you with a convenience, will indeed make your system accessible to anyone who happens to turn on your computer.

Fortunately, there is a way to have your cake and eat it too. In this edition of the Windows Vista report, I show you how you can take advantage of the automatic logon procedure while still keep your Windows Vista system password protected.

Locking your system

As you probably know, when you're working on your Windows Vista system and decide to take a break, you can lock your system down by clicking the Start button and clicking the Lock icon that appears at the bottom of the right hand panel of the Start menu (Figure A). You can also lock your system by pressing [Windows]+L. When your system is locked, the only way to get access to it again is to type in your password.

Figure A

Lock Icon

However, most folks don't know that you can also lock your system by typing a series of commands in the command line. All you need to do is access the Run dialog box by pressing [Windows]+R and type:

rundll32.exe user32.dll, LockWorkStation

As soon as you click OK, your Windows Vista system will be instantly locked.

The trick that we'll take advantage of here is that anything that is running when you lock your system will continue to run while is it locked.

Creating a shortcut to lock your system

Because there is a series of command line commands that will lock your Windows Vista system, you can create a shortcut that will allow you to instantly lock your system, simply by double clicking an icon.

First, right click on the desktop and select New | Shortcut from the context menu to access the Create Shortcut wizard. When you see the Create Shortcut wizard, type the following into the Type the location of the item text box and click Next. (Figure B)
rundll32.exe user32.dll, LockWorkStation

Figure B

Create shortcut

(Take note of the uppercase letters in the word LockWorkStation as you type it — if you don't use the exact case, the shortcut will fail.)

On the next page, type Lock It Down in the Type A Name For This Shortcut text box. Then click Finish. Just to make sure that it works correctly, double-click the Lock It Down shortcut.

Running the Lock It Down shortcut at startup

Once you ensure that the Lock It Down shortcut still works, you can place it in the Startup folder. To do so, just drag the Lock It Down shortcut from the desktop and hover over the Start button. Once the Start menu opens, hover over All Programs and then over the Startup folder until it opens. Once it does, just drop the shortcut into the Startup folder.

Using your protected system

Now when you turn on or reboot your system, it will automatically log on to your account and then immediately display the Welcome screen indicating that the system is in a Locked state. However, all your other startup programs continue to load in the background.

With this technique, you can now turn on your computer in the morning and go get a cup of coffee. When you return, your system has logged on, loaded all the start up programs, and is ready for you to sit down and go to work — all you have to do is type your password.

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Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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