Slideshow: Boot Windows 8 directly to the desktop

Accessing Task Scheduler from the Start Screen is easy

This photo gallery is also available as a post in the Windows and Office Blog.

Would you prefer to have Windows 8 bypass the Start Screen and boot straight to the desktop? If so, you can do so using a technique that takes advantage of a feature that is built right into the operating system - no third-party tools required. All you have to do is create a specially configured task that is scheduled to run at log on.

In this post, I'll walk you through the steps required to make Windows 8 boot straight to the desktop using a specially configured scheduled task.

Some background

If you were working with/testing Windows 8 during the Preview/Beta period, you may know that a similar trick allowed you to make Windows 8 boot straight to the desktop and that the loophole that allowed that trick was closed when the Windows 8 code was finalized.

As you may recall, in previous versions of Windows, a special shortcut called Show Desktop appeared on the Quick Launch menu. This shortcut was a standard text file that contained five lines of code and was saved with the file extension SCF. The fifth line of that code was Command=ToggleDesktop.

During the Preview/Beta period, it was discovered that if you recreated that shortcut in Windows 8 and set it up as a scheduled task that ran at log on, the operating system would run the SCF file and boot to the desktop rather than the Start Screen. Once the Windows 8 code was finalized, that particular shortcut was no longer recognized by the operating system. Whether Microsoft did that on purpose or whether the contents of the SCF represented legacy code that was never intended to be a in the final code is unknown.

In any case, it seemed there would be no way to get Windows 8 to boot to the desktop without a third-party tool, such as Stardock's Start8 utility, which, once installed, bypasses the Start Screen as well as revives the Start Menu.

Convinced that there had to be another way to make Windows 8 boot to the desktop using a scheduled task, I began experimenting with different shortcuts and executables. Then, it dawned on me that explorer.exe is still the heart and soul of the Windows desktop. I figured that if anything could trump the Start Screen, it would be explorer.exe. So I tried it and found that it worked.

During my experimentation with this technique, I haven't found any serious side effects or other problems. However, that doesn't mean that sometime down the road, Microsoft might release a patch that will disable or even invalidate this technique.

Catch up with all of TechRepublic's Windows 8 tips on our focus page.

Getting started

To begin you'll need to launch the Task Scheduler tool. To do so, just press the [Windows] key, type Schedule, select Settings, and click Schedule tasks, as illustrated in Figure A. When you do, the Task Scheduler will appear.

Credit: Images by Greg Shultz for TechRepublic

By Greg Shultz

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.