Windows 7 Registry Tweaks

Windows 7 Auto Logon With AutoAdminLogon

Windows 7 Auto Logon Registry Hack

The idea behind the Windows 7 Auto Login is that a userName can logon at a computer without having to type their password.  A typical scenario would be a test machine on a private network.  With Auto Logon enabled, when you restart the machine it automatically logs-on a named user.  The trick, which also its liability, is to use regedit to set a value for DefaultPassword in the registry.

Topics for Windows 7 Auto Logon Registry Hack

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Instructions to Enable Auto Logon with Regedit

  1. Launch Regedit. (See more details on starting regedit)
  2. Navigate to:
    HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\winlogon
    Set: AutoAdminLogon = 1 (one means on, zero means off.)Regedit Auto Logon Windows 7
  3. Tip: Try Regedit's 'Find': AutoAdminLogon.
  4. Crucial Point set the Administrator's password.
  5. Create a new String Value called DefaultPassword
    Set: DefaultPassword = "P@ssw0rd".
  6. Check for the existence of a REG_SZ called DefaultUserName.  The value should reflect the user who you wish to logon automatically.  If this value does not exist, then right-click in the right pane, New, REG_SZ, name it, DefaultUserName.  Set the string value to the required UserName.
  7. Optional Item: If your Windows 7 Machine has joined a domain, then create a String Value called DefaultDomainName. 
    Set: DefaultDomainName = "OnlyYouKnowDomain"

Here is a summary of the four registry settings to enable Auto Logon

AutoAdminLogon = "1" Enabled  (To disable Auto Logon set to value to zero)
DefaultUserName = "xxx"
DefaultPassword = "xxxx0xxxx"
DefaultDomainName = "xxx.xxx".  Only needed if computer has joined a domain.

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Disable Auto Logon in Registry

It's easy to disable Auto Logon with regedit; you just need to find, then change AutoAdminLogon from 1 to zero.  You can leave the other settings, especially if you change your mind later!

Key Learning Points For Windows 7 Auto Logon

  • When you set a user's Auto Logon with regedit, do you find the AutoAdminLogon value in HKCU** or HKLM?
    Answer: HKLM
  • Do you have to add a value, or modify an existing setting? 
    Answer: Modify 0 (Disabled) --> 1 (Enabled).
  • Is it a String Value or a DWORD?
    Answer: These are all REG_SZ (String value).
  • Do you need to Restart, or merely Logoff / Logon?
    Answer: Restart
  • Extra Information: To enable Auto Logon with regedit you also need to create a REG_SZ called, DefaultPassword, and possibly another called DefaultDomainName.
  • If you ever need to breakout of AutoAdminLogon, hold down the shift key as Windows 7 initializes and the user logs on.  What the shift key does is enable you to logon as a different user.

Problems With AutoAdminLogon

  • The number one problem is not setting a DefaultPassword.  Yes this is insecure, but it gets the job done.  If you leave it's value blank than Windows 7 sets AutoAdminLogon = 0.
  • DefaultDomainName - Check and set correctly if you really are in a domain.

AutoLogonCount

This registry value is mainly used during setup.  The idea is for a machine to automatically reboot during installation.

Each time the computer is restarted AutoAdminLogon kicks-in and the administrator is logged on automatically, furthermore, the AutoLogonCount value is decremented by one until the count reaches zero.  Once its value reaches zero, the AutoLogonCount value in the Winlogon key is removed.

AutoLogonCount

  1. Launch Regedit.
  2. Navigate to:
    HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\winlogon
    Create a Reg_DWORD: AutoLogonCount
  3. Set the value, for example 7.

Auto Logon for Windows 7 Home EditionsAuto Logon Windows 7 Registry Home Edition

I have been using AutoAdminLogon since NT 3.5, however, in Windows 7 Home editions there is a much easier alternative, namely to tick: 'Users must enter a user name and password'.

Unlike Vista, in Windows 7 you need to launch a native, but hidden applet called NetPlwiz.  Once the User Accounts interface appears select the user who you want Auto Logon, now remove the tick in the checkbox.
'Users must enter a user name and password'. 

Click OK.

All you need to do next is type the password twice in the, 'Automatically Log On' dialog box.  See screenshot.  Once you restart Windows 7, it will logon that user automatically.

Double-check the logic of what you are ticking.  Also, when you set a registry value to one or zero, read the value carefully.  Half of all people who write and say 'Guy that tweak did not work', have not understood the logic, double negatives are a particular source of errors.

Before you try the above configuration, note: I did not, repeat, not find this setting in a machine which had joined an Active Directory domain.

Just out of interest I would check the registry to see how AutoAdminLogon has been configured (Regedit, Edit menu find AutoAdminLogon).

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A Real-life Story Starring AutoAdminLogon

Guy's 3rd Law of computing states: 'The more security that you have, then the more work there will be for you'.  This law certainly applies to complex passwords, where you need to remember a combination of uppercase, lowercase, number and squiggles (non-alphanumeric characters).

Let me give you an example of why I like the registry setting AutoAdminLogon, I was training a new Windows 7 course containing two delegates from hell.  The other ingredient was a new technician, who installed the default American keyboard layout; even though we were in London England, where naturally our keyboards had the UK layout.

The course started with the delegates logging on to their Windows 7 machines as Administrator with the password of P@ssw0rd.  Have you guessed the problem?  The @ was not on the keyboard where the delegates and I thought it would be, namely above the comma.  Thanks to the USA / UK mixed setup, the @ was above the numeric 2.

Most of the first session was spent getting the 8 delegates just to logon.  For the second exercise, they had to join a domain - that took the rest of the morning because after the restart they had to grapple with the complex password - again.

Over lunchtime I edited the registry, my aim was to activate AutoAdminLogon and thus configure an automatic logon without delegate input.  You can see above how I achieved this in: Instructions for Setting AutoAdminLogon.

Creating a .Reg File

For my solution to work, I needed the same settings on all 8 machines. Thus from my machine I exported the HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\winlogon branch of the registry into a .reg file, which I then imported to each of the delegates machines. No more problems with logging on after that.  Training is the classic place to try these naughty but nice tricks; another scenario for AutoAdminLogon is for test machines not connected to a production network.  Example AutoAdminLogon .reg file.

Summary of Window 7 Auto Logon Registry Hack

Thanks to regedit, Auto Logon can be enabled so that you can logon automatically without having to enter a password.  Such configurations are most useful for testing.  You could also justify editing the registry, and setting AutoAdminLogon on a machine in a room that is physically secure, or a place where only you have access.

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