Vista Registry – AutoAdminLogon

Vista Registry Editor – AutoAdminLogon

The idea behind AutoAdminLogon is that a user(name) can logon at a computer without having to type a password.  A typical scenario would be a test machine on a private network.  With AutoAdminLogon enabled, when you restart the machine it automatically logs on a named user.  The trick, which also its liability, is to set a value for DefaultPassword in the registry.

Topics for Setting AutoAdminLogon


Instructions for Setting AutoAdminLogonWindows Vista Regedit and AutoAdminLogon

  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)
  3. Tip: Try Regedit’s ‘Find’: AutoAdminLogon
  4. Create a new String Value called DefaultPassword
    Set: DefaultPassword = "P@ssw0rd"
  5. 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.
  6. Optional Item: If your Vista Machine has joined a domain, then create a String Value called DefaultDomainName. 
    Set: DefaultDomainName = "OnlyYouKnowDomain"

Here is a summary of the four key registry settings:

"DefaultDomainName"="".  Definitely needed in a domain situation.

Key Learning Points

  • 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 –> 1.
  • 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: With AutoAdminLogon 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 Vista initializes and the user logs on.  What the shift key does is enable you to logon as a different user.

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Addendum for Vista Home EditionsUsers must enter a user name and password

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

Navigate to the Control Panel, User Accounts and finally click on the Users tab, then remove the tick in:
‘Users must enter a user name and password’.  All you need to do next is type the password twice in the, ‘Automatically Log On’ dialog box.  See screenshot.  Once you restart Vista, 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 Vista 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 Vista 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.

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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.

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Windows Vista Registry Tweaks: