Windows

Configure the Windows XP logon screen saver


If you ever work in a computer lab or an Internet café where systems regularly sit idle waiting for someone to log on, you know that Windows XP will display the Logon dialog box or the Welcome screen for 10 minutes before running the default logon screensaver, which is the Windows XP logo floating on a black background. You can change the default logon screensaver to something different, such as the OpenGL 3D Pipes screen saver, and you can even shorten the amount of time that Windows XP waits before activating the screensaver. Here's how to do both:

  1. Launch the Registry Editor (Regedit.exe).
  2. Go to HK_USERS\.DEFAULT\Control Panel\Desktop.
  3. Locate and double-click the SCRNSAVE.EXE string value.
  4. When you see the Edit String dialog box, type the name of the screensaver you want in the Value Data text box and click OK.
  5. Locate and double-click the ScreenSaveTimeOut string value and change the value from 600 seconds to another number, such as 120 for two minutes.
  6. Close the Registry Editor and restart Windows XP.

After the system restarts and you see the Logon or Welcome screen, leave the system untouched for two minutes to see your new screensaver in action.

Note: This tip applies to both Windows XP Home and Windows XP Professional. As always, remember that editing the registry is risky, so be sure to back up your computer before undertaking any registry changes.

Miss a Windows XP tip?

Check out the Windows XP archive, and get more hands-on Windows XP tips.

Stay on top of the latest XP tips and tricks with our free Windows XP newsletter, delivered each Thursday. Automatically sign up today!

About

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.

63 comments
kukamunga
kukamunga

OK, Why couldn't you simply setup a new user account, login to it, configure it the way you want for a default user profile - including the screensaver, logoff, login to an administrator's account and set the default user groups/security etc, and copy the new user profile you created to the default user using the Users Profiles dialog box? Once you've set up NewUser, log off NewUser, log on to an admin account: RightClick/ My Computer/ properties/ advanced tab/ user profiles/ settings button/ select the NewUser profile in the User Profiles dialog box, click Copy To - browse to the default user folder and click on ok... Doing this should should copy everything over, including the correct registry... wouldn't the registry then contain the correct screensaver and settings that windows is looking for when it starts the screensaver without anyone loged on at the welcome screen?

pmuti
pmuti

I remember reading about how to get into windows server 2000 using this method.. replacing the default screen saver with cmd.exe - so after 5 min of booting, you had a superuser console basically. was kinda neat.

ppcarpenter
ppcarpenter

My earlier post that this tip doesn't work was slightly in error. Two things not mentioned in this article need to happen to make it work: 1)After you type in the name of the screen saver you want to use in the Value Data text box be sure to add ".scr" (don't include the quotes) after the name; 2) This doesn't work with transparent screen savers.

Shadetree Engineer
Shadetree Engineer

I just tried this on my laptop. Only I set it up so that it's the 'Blue Screen of Death' screen saver that runs, with a 10-second delay. Very funny! ie - find the zip-file at microsoft.com copy 'SysInternals Bluescreen.scr' to c:\windows\system32

in_get
in_get

After the last Microsoft.net Framework update, login slightly different my ADMIN user and GUEST user login show up in the XP welcome screen, but the password box is already highlited as if I had clicked on the ADMIN user picture. That does not irk me much, but after the screen saver comes on , if you touch a button or move mouse instead of the Welcome screen like it used to ,which again had ADMIN or GUEST, it has the "traditional classic" login " "This computer is locked..... I would like to have it go back to the welcome screen after the screen saver has come up.

Chug
Chug

I did already know how to do this, but it is a useful tip. BUT, the problem my company has is that our Info Security people require us to activate the "Legal Notice" on boot up, so you get the legal notice text that you have to click OK on before you even get the logon screen. While the Legal Notice is displayed the screen saver absolutely will not kick in. We've got several monitors with the Legal Notice burnt in. Is there a way to force the screen saver to kick in even with the Legal Notice displayed? (Once you click OK on the legal notice and let it sit at the logon screen the screen saver kicks in just fine. It's only while the notice is displayed.)

ppcarpenter
ppcarpenter

This doesn't work. And now I can't get it back to the way it was and working either. I have no screensaver and probably have to waste my time repairing or re-installing XP. I think I'll ignore any more of these so-called "tips".

blaqwolf
blaqwolf

Greg, you must be busy or you would have pulled your hair out by now. I rarely respond to any articles but I have enjoyed reading TR's articles for a few years now. But I can't get over how fast some people can make such fools of them selves simply because they dont bother to read the entire article and understand it BEFORE opening thier proverbial mouths and start criticizing others. Thanks for the tips, I have used many of them in my service time in the Army and a few have "saved my bacon", keep 'em coming! - Scott

RodneyMac
RodneyMac

And I am not a technical person in any way. My $0.02. If your PC requires you to login, simply powerup and do nothing for 10 minutes. What happens? The Ctrl Alt Delete box bounces aroubd the screen. Now login, what screensaver do you have? Spongebob? Is this the same as the one displayed BEFORE you logged in? No its not. Say you are a Network Admin type person and would like your corporate Screen Saver or a specific message to play (say about security or the next office Karaoke session (whatever pushes your buttons). Sounds good? Well, you must then edit the registry to do that. Should the average joe user be messing in the Registry, probably not but people do silly things every day. I like this tip. Nice one. Rod

Photogenic Memory
Photogenic Memory

I found this article sort of interesting but it's peaked a small interest of mine. I wanted to know if it is possible; like the screen saver deal, is it possible to watch Windows Boot Code execution like Linux does upon boot? Have you come across this ever? Thanks in advance.

sykandtyed
sykandtyed

in italic to backup your computer. How about printing the disclaimer at the beginning in bold to back up your registry which would be a lot easier and safe for the novice!!! I don't know if TechRepulic paid for this article, but it is worthless and dangerious to edit the registry. Shame on the editors of Teck Republic.

dlptv
dlptv

What the hell are you doing man??!! no one at a cyber cafe is going to go through all that! why not the simple way.. just right click the desktop, choose properties,click screen saver and just choose one. to change the 10 min default logon.. just beside the word " wait":.. just choose a time frame. apply then ok. done!

Techie31
Techie31

I was hoping for how configure the test in the screen saver i already knew how to do this

pabloiec
pabloiec

It is certainly a very useful tip. I would expect something more interesting of an article that comes to my Inbox under TechRepublic name, like information regarding to security and this screensaver... how can be hacked or vulnerabilities. Nevertheless many of my female friends who never read Techrepublic would certainly appreciate this tip.

nick
nick

The 'G-Man' must be blind

The Listed 'G MAN'
The Listed 'G MAN'

can change the default logon screensaver to something different? EDIT - Looks to have changed and is now there. Thx

slilley
slilley

Did you ever find an answer to this? We have the same situation and it is driving me nuts!

tom
tom

Maybe not on your PC, because of something wrong on your PC...or you made a mistake in making the changes, who knows. That's why they recommend you back up your registry first so you can get back to where you were.

jpom22
jpom22

i dont need, nor want to see the initial logon screen - AT ALL. jeez, i dont have top secret anything and i live alone. if i delete the window logon key in the registry, will that lock up my windows altogether, or will windows just fire up without the logon? PLEASE - dont respond unless you know for sure

Qman11455
Qman11455

Thanks for the tip Greg! I do chat support and it is the same there. I use "please see above" alot or just copy and paste what I previously typed. Slow down people and read what was said ..lol.

holmescd
holmescd

This is a good tip, Greg. Thanks.

ServiceTech
ServiceTech

It's a very useful article if you want to change the LOGON screensaver. Most readers are confusing this with the DESKTOP screensaver. If you don't like the article.... WRITE SOMETHING BETTER!

neppechr
neppechr

You are correct. It is dangerous to edit the registry if you don't know what you are doing. The average home user probably shouldn't be doing so. However, for computer & network techs editing the registry is a staple of our jobs. There are uncountable numbers of registry edits & tweaks that I've done over the years, and I have never had a problem doing so. I only do what I know how to do, and I don't carelessly "experiment" unless it is on a test machine or something. It depends on one's level of expertise and whether one is smart enough not to get in over one's head.

maurice
maurice

LOOK AT THE PROBLEM!! How to change the XP LOGON SCREEN SAVER which kicks in BEFORE YOU LOG IN!! Just try it then kick yourself in the butt for being so stupid.

BTrik
BTrik

I want to change my wallpaper, should I edit the registry? My rule is this: ONLY edit the REGISTRY if there is no way to do it through the GUI!

ScottComingThrough
ScottComingThrough

The article is talking about a non-profile specific screen saver. Changing the screensaver once you've logged in does not affect the settings for the screensaver when you first turn the PC on.

jr.callan
jr.callan

Why encourage people to fiddle with registry setting when, as previous poster said, simply right click desktop, properties, screensaver and make the changes there? Simple stupid or what?

grimstl
grimstl

The "Legal Notice Text" is changed at: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon You can customize the Title with "Legal Notice Caption" and the text contents with "Legal Notice Text." There is one "Gotcha." The registry editor does not naively understand how to include a carriage return/line feed. If you type CR while typing the text, you have executed an "Enter" and the input box closes. There is a work arround as follows: 1. Type all your text (Right Click > Mofify) substituting a ~ for each carriage return. Exit from the input box. 2. Re-open the text editing box, but with the binary editor (Rt Click > Modify Binary Data) In the BINARY side of the editor, Replace each ~ (shown as binary 7E 00) with this binary value (0D 00 )-- zero D zero zero. Note: You only have to change the 7E to 0D, the 00 stays the same, but it takes two PAIRS of binary characters to make each entry. It seems to me that OD is the binary value for a Carriage Return. I have a message that uses two carriage returns, just add an extra 0D 00 3. Exit Regedit and restart the machine. 4. This registry value will remain unchanged through Ghosting, but copying the Registry file from one machine to another (as a .REG file) seems to remove the carriage return. It is then necessary to edit the file on the new machine to add the 0D in the proper places. There is also some discussion of this topic at the following Tech Republic discussion page: http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-11184-0.html?forumID=55&threadID=193075&messageID=1992911 Click on the link to Virtual Plastic.net There is also a discussion of using scripting to do this task at: http://www.microsoft.com/technet/scriptcenter/resources/qanda/jan05/hey0117.mspx Another webpage mentions the use of an NT Resource Kit command line utility named "REGINI.EXE": http://www.ciac.org/ciac/ConferenceProceedings/DOECompSec97/howtodoc.pdf as well as describing the method of adding the 0D with the binary editor.

tom
tom

exactly!!!

sykandtyed
sykandtyed

To change the screen saver, right click any bkank spot on the screen. Click Properties click tab screen saver In the Screen Saver box select the screen saver you want from the drop down box If the screen saver has any attributes select them from the boxes to the right. You can add most pictures to that list by right clicking the picture and select Add to Screen Saver.

neppechr
neppechr

This procedure will change the DEFAULT screen saver that pops-up BEFORE a user logs in. Using the desktop control panel to change the user's screen saver will HAVE NO EFFECT on the pre-login screen saver. This article is correct - the only way to change the default screen saver is to edit the registry. I am a tech at a school district, and I have used this registry hack to change the login screen savers on all our network computers. From a network standpoint this is a very useful tip (though I already knew about it). My only question is - once I change the default screen saver how can I customize it? For instance, how can I put custom text on the 3D text screen saver? Anyone know how to do that?

nicorac
nicorac

I'm experiencing a different behaviour: at the FIRST logon screen after power on, if I don't log-in, after (say) 5 minutes the PC powers off. Say that I power on the PC, then I receive an unexpected log phone call... after the phone call I fount the PC powered off. Power settings are obviously set to Always ON. Anyone have an idea?

ppcarpenter
ppcarpenter

There's nothing wrong on my PC and I followed the instructions exactly. What's "wrong" is I should have been smarter: Any time you're advised to back up your registry that's a good warning to stay away from whatever "tweak" is being offered. Chances are good your system is going to get screwed up.

Wally Bahny
Wally Bahny

A quick Google search for "windows xp auto login" returns http://support.microsoft.com/kb/315231 as well as many more pages. The above page shows you how to modify your registry to set up an auto login. I used to do these same steps on Windows 98 and it appears they have not changed since then. Enjoy!

The Listed 'G MAN'
The Listed 'G MAN'

it is just the same thing without all the GUI clicking - why have a rule?

The Listed 'G MAN'
The Listed 'G MAN'

The system is on a domain - which user of the 10,000 active directory do you think should have the screensaver shown? Default User? Better change that one then. How (as you don't log on as the default user, the settings are merged with your own) Modify the Registry.

Andrzej_Ladosz
Andrzej_Ladosz

.. or the settings were locked by clever guy from "IT upstairs". This is the view of "ordinary user" seen frequently as an idiot who should be spoon-fed with barbed wire in place of macaroni. :(

t_a_ash
t_a_ash

I believe that '0D' would be Hex, wouldn't it?

Techie31
Techie31

I meant the text of 3d text screensaver, I did it once for a school I worked at so it showed the school name but can'rt remember how I did it.

The Listed 'G MAN'
The Listed 'G MAN'

that would like to have a corporate screen saver on PC's that are on but not logged into the network.

Raymond Danner
Raymond Danner

Which can't be set via the desktop. Are you listening, RUlistening, or just less alert than most?

lord_nemesis23
lord_nemesis23

Well I feel for Greg. Seems like the target audience is not as tech savvy as expected and a couple of them do not understand what is meant by Windows XP LOGON SCREEN saver.

jrstacey1
jrstacey1

These are steps to change the default screen saver at the login screen. You are thinking about the screen saver when the user is already logged in.

gjlarbes
gjlarbes

I thought that I was not understanding something, because I always do it the way you just said. And I also agree, that has to be, without any doubt the dumbest way to change the screen saver and the time it takes to kick in.

ATLJason
ATLJason

Doing it that way will change the screen saver for YOUR user account only. I think the post is talking about how to change it when no one is logged on.

Raymond Danner
Raymond Danner

My suspicion here is that you would configure it via the desktop (temporarily set it as your normal screensaver, alter the settings, see if it worked, etc.) Of course, as I have been so many times in the past and likely will be in future, I could be very wrong.

Wally Bahny
Wally Bahny

I've got a solution for you neppechr, but it's a little rough. The best way to do it is: 1. Put the settings the way you want them under your current login. 2. Go to HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Screensavers. Export the sub-key that is relevant to the screensaver you've customized (in this case Text3D). 3. Edit the export file changing any occurances of "HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Screensavers" to "HKU\.DEFAULT\Software\Microsoft\Screensavers" (I abbreviated, use the full HKEY names). 4. Re-import the file (with the changes) so that it gets dumped into the .DEFAULT user profile. 5. Follow Greg's steps (if you haven't already) to set the screen saver filename, etc. Fun stuff... (EDIT: corrected and clarified language)

egpor95
egpor95

Is it powering all the way down or is it hibernating. Check your settings in the desktop settings. Rt click the desktop, select properties, select the screen saver tab, click on power and check the settings in Power Schemes and Hibernate.

jpom22
jpom22

actually, windows xp provides a choice in the administrator account (mine), to "remove password" - but i wasnt sure what kind of result that would bring. you gave me the cajones to click it, and presto! it said my account was no longer password-protected. yippeee! and i can always create a password again, should i obtain state secrets that would endanger the security of the world. so a million thanks, maurice. i owe ya one.

maurice
maurice

You must ensure that you do not have a password set on your user. To do this get to your user account by whichever method you use, and make sure it is totally blank. Also make sure the "password never expires" is ticked. The autologin will only work if your pc is rebooted from totally off, not from hibernation or standby. If you wake your PC from either of the above, then you will still be presented with a login screen.

jpom22
jpom22

i think this registry adjustment still allows the logon screen to come up, then with one click, bingo. i dont even want to see that screen, though this would at least be an improvement over having to enter my password. the other problem is that my password would be stored in the registry key. though i've said i dont store rocket science secrets, there might come a time when i do - then i'd have to undo all this and create another password... and wouldnt that be fun. then there's the scenario that i screw up changing the registry to autologin, and whammo, i cant access my own damn puter! and wouldnt that be even more fun. nah, i'll just suffer. this should be the worst problem i ever have to deal with. but thanks for the answer. oh, ps. i never use microsoft.com for anything. ever. i had that website screw around with my IE formatting once, without ever asking me if i wanted their update, or whatever... and all i did was read something there, never even clicked on anything!!

The Listed 'G MAN'
The Listed 'G MAN'

binary numeral system, or base-2 number system, is a numeral system that represents numeric values using two symbols, usually 0 and 1. More specifically, the usual base-2 system is a positional notation with a radix of 2. Owing to its straightforward implementation in electronic circuitry, the binary system is used internally by virtually all modern computers. 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 | - | - - | | - | | x o x o o x x o x x y n y n n y y n y y

neppechr
neppechr

Why is this so hard for people to understand? How many different ways can it be put? YES - it is EASY to change a screen saver for any average user who's already logged in. We are talking about changing the default screen saver that you see BEFORE anyone has logged in - and this default screen saver CAN NOT BE CHANGED by right-clicking or otherwise accessing the Screen Saver tab in the Display Properties dialog box! Don't believe me? TRY IT! Do you get it now? You CAN'T change the pre-login screen saver without editing the registry!

neppechr
neppechr

Thanks for responding to my post with the right tip.

The Listed 'G MAN'
The Listed 'G MAN'

but stop the computer turning the network card off to save power, not the machine!

ray.menzel
ray.menzel

causing you problems. Right click local area network, click the configure network adapter, select power management and assure the flag is uncheck to allow the computer to turn this device off. Hope this helps.

BTrik
BTrik

Shouldn't you check this setting through the registry instead? This is how Greg Shultz would do it.