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Automatic login most commonly happens when there's no password - but Remote Desktop requires that you have a password. TweakUI provides the solution.

I run Windows XP Pro, and I frequently use remote desktop. Unfortunately remote desktop requires that my login account have a password; that, in turn, means that I can't set up my machine to automatically login when I boot it. Or can I? Is there a way to automatically login to a passworded account?

Yes there is. I use it myself for all the same reasons you've outlined.

It's not difficult, but I do download a helper utility from Microsoft. And after we do that, we need to talk about the security implications of auto-login in general.

Start by grabbing a copy of TweakUI from microsoft.com. TweakUI has a number of nifty features that allow you to adjust or "tweak" many of the features of Windows XP that aren't otherwise or easily exposed.

Once you fire up TweakUI (most likely under Start, All Programs, Powertoys for Windows XP), one of the options on the right is "Logon" and underneath that, "Autologin". There you can specify the account that you want to use as well as that account's password, which is then encrypted and stored in the registry. The next time you boot up, your machine will automatically login to that account.

This video walks you through those steps:

Now, about the security implications.

You've probably already heard me say "If it's not physically secure, it's not secure" and that's nowhere more true than in this situation. Anyone who can physically get to your machine can login as you, even if the login screen is up. That login screen might be the login required after a screen saver kicks in or the login that is shown when you're accessing your machine via remote desktop.

But your machine logs in automatically.

That means all someone need do is push the reset button, or turn off the power and turn it back on again, causing your machine to reboot. Reboot and login, that is, after which they have access to everything associated with that account.

If you do need automatic login, then I'd recommend making sure you use an account that does not have administrative privileges, and/or making sure that the machine itself is appropriately, physically, secure.

Article C2831 - November 6, 2006 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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3 Comments
Frank Johnstone
November 15, 2006 5:22 PM

Hi Leo.
I really enjoyed your video presentation and will be looking for many more to come, i found it a great way to follow instructions. Bring us more I say. :)

Steve Rifkin
September 6, 2007 11:42 AM

Hello,
I plan on having a computer at a colocation.
I need to be able to have remote access to do an auto shut down of the computer and be able to do an auto start up. I do not want a restart. I have a windows based system with XP Pro. Is this possible? I see options for remote shut down only thru XP Pro.

Thank you
Steve Rifkin

Amin Gilani
August 4, 2008 3:28 AM

Steve Rifkin..
.
i don't know about the auto startup..
.
but to shut down a computer through remote access.. just open run and type in the command shutdown -s -t "00"
.
that shuts off the computer.. =D

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