Windows XP / Beginners

Useful Windows XP Logon Strategies

When you install Windows XP, the setup program asks you to enter a user name for each of the people who will be accessing the computer. How you initially log on to Windows XP depends on what you did at that point of the installation:

  • If you entered only a single user name and your computer is not part of a network domain, Windows XP logs on that user name automatically.
  • If you entered multiple user names and your computer is not part of a domain, Windows XP displays the Welcome screen, which lists the users. Click the user name that you want to log on.
  • If your computer is part of a domain, Windows XP first displays the Welcome To Windows dialog box, which prompts you to press Ctrl+Alt+Delete. When you do that, you see the Log On To Windows dialog box. (Windows XP refers to this process as the "Classic" logon.) Change the User Name, if necessary, enter the Password, and click OK.

Customizing the Logon

The default logon is fine for most users, but there are many ways to change Windows XP's logon behavior. The rest of this section looks at a few tips and techniques for altering your Windows XP logon method.

Switching Between the Welcome Screen and the Classic Logon

Many people prefer the Classic Windows XP logon because the initial step of pressing Ctrl+Alt+Delete adds an extra level of security. (It prevents automatic logons and thwarts any malicious programs-such as a password-stealing program-that might have been activated at startup.) If your computer uses the Welcome screen logon, you switch to the Classic logon by using any of the following techniques:

  • Launch Control Panel's User Accounts icon, click Change The Way Users Log On Or Off, and then clear the Use Welcome Screen check box.
  • In the registry, set the following DWORD value to 0 (reset it to 1 to revert to the Welcome screen):
    HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\LogonType
  • In the Group Policy editor, open Computer Configuration, Administrative Templates, System, Logon, and then enable the Always Use Classic Logon policy. (Note that setting this policy takes precedence over the User Accounts option or the registry setting.)
    Note If your computer is part of a domain, you can't change the logon from the Classic method to the Welcome screen.

Toggling Fast User Switching On and Off

Windows XP's fast user switching feature enables another user to log on to the system without logging off the current user. (Note, however, that fast user switching is available only if you use the Windows XP Welcome screen.) You use the feature by following these steps:

  1. Select Start, Log Off. The Log Off Windows dialog box appears.
  2. Click Switch User. The Welcome screen appears.
  3. Click the name of the user who wants to log on.

If your computer doesn't have much memory, fast user switching can be a problem because the programs and windows of other users remain open, which can slow down overall computer performance. If you have this problem, you can turn off fast user switching by launching Control Panel's User Accounts icon, clicking Change The Way Users Log On Or Off, and then clearing the Use Fast User Switching check box.

Accessing the Administrator Account

Another chore you performed during the Windows XP setup routine was to specify an Administrator password. One of the confusing aspects about Windows XP is that after the setup is complete, the Administrator account seems to disappear. The secret is that Administrator actually is a hidden account that appears only in a limited set of circumstances, such as when you boot Windows XP in Safe Mode or when no other administrative-level accounts are defined on your system. Outside of these scenarios, there are several ways to log on to Windows XP using the Administrator account:

  • If you're using the Welcome screen, press Ctrl+Alt+Delete twice.
  • If you're using the Classic logon, enter Administrator in the User Name text box.
  • Set up an automatic logon using the Administrator (see the next section).
  • Tweak Windows XP to make the Administrator account visible in the Welcome screen. To do this, open the Registry Editor and navigate to the following key:
    HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\SpecialAccounts\UserList
    Add a new DWORD value named Administrator and set its value to 1. (To hide Administrator in the Welcome screen, set this value to 0.)

The UserList registry key is also useful for hiding accounts. If you have a user account defined but you don't want other users to see that name in the Welcome screen, add a DWORD value to the UserList key, give it the same name as the user, and set its value to 0. You can access this account using the same methods that we outlined in this section for the Administrator account.

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