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You can bypass the Windows login screen easily with a very simple utility. But you should be aware that doing so opens up a security risk.

I have a computer with Windows Vista and I have to login whenever I turn it on. How do I turn that off so I don't have to login when I turn on my computer?

Your timing couldn't be better.

There are several approaches to setting this up, but just a day or two after getting your question, I stumbled onto a utility that makes this drop-dead simple.

It's free and from a trusted source: Microsoft.

The Login Screen

Here's what we're trying to avoid ever seeing again:

Windows Vista Login Screen

"With automatic login, anyone with physical access to your machine can gain full access to your login account simply by rebooting the machine."

If you're the only user of the machine, you'll enter the same information every time you reboot the machine. But why go through that? Well, I'll have some reasons to consider below, but for now, let's assume that there's no reason to force you to login each time.

Autologon

Autologon is a tool from the SysInternals folks out at Microsoft, the same people that bring us useful tools like Process Explorer. It may have been around for a while, but for some reason, I missed it until just the other day.

Autologon from SysInternals & Microsoft

Download Autologon and extract the program autologon.exe from the .zip file. Then, put that somewhere convenient, and run it.

After accepting the License Agreement, you'll see this:

Autologon

That's the entire user interface: a dialog box with your login name, the domain (in most cases, this is your machine name), a password field, an Enable button, a Disable button, and an About button. That's it.

To enable auto-login, enter your password and click Enable.

Autologon set

After you reboot, you'll find that you bypassed the login screen. You are now signed in with the credentials you supplied to the Autologon tool.

To turn automatic login off, just rerun the tool and click the Disable button.

That's as simple as can be.

Autologon works in Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7.

Automatic Login Is A Security Risk

To be clear, I use automatic login on some of my machines - the ones that don't leave my home. And I've added autologon.exe to my toolkit.

But it's important to realize that by allowing your machine to login automatically, you've put in place a possible security hole.

With automatic login, anyone with physical access to your machine can gain full access to your login account simply by rebooting the machine.

If you have enough confidence in your physical security, you may consider that an acceptable risk to take on for the convenience of not having to login.

On the other hand, if your machine is easily accessible to others, the small inconvenience of entering a password could be worth it if it saves you trouble later on.

Update: several people have pointed out that this doesn't affect whether or not a password is required on resume from sleep or hibernation. That's correct; that scenario isn't actually related to logging in at all. You're still logged in when your computer sleeps or hibernates, so you're not really logging in again when it requires a password to regain access. That's a different setting that I've outlined in How do I avoid needing a password after standby or hibernation?

Article C4752 - February 27, 2011 « »

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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.

Not what you needed?

15 Comments
Paul
February 27, 2011 9:18 PM

Why download something when you can just do it by clicking the start button, selecting run (or {Windows Key} + R), typing "netplwiz" (in Windows 7 or Vista) or "control userpasswords2" (in Windows XP) and clicking OK to access the feature right in Windows?

To quote the article: "There are several approaches to setting this up, ... I stumbled onto a utility that makes this drop-dead simple." Focus on the drop-dead simple statement. That's very important to many people.
Leo
28-Feb-2011

Mike
February 28, 2011 7:33 AM

I just want to add that when a user has physical access they can access the computer regardless of whether windows asks for a password or not. To do this one would use a live cd, a cd that allows one to boot from it, thus bypassing windows entirely.
The solutions to this problem I've seen include asking a password before windows boots (i.e. using the BIOS, at my school they somehow got it to ask a password when you want to select boot from CD from the boot menu); you can also encrypt the data you don't want people to see, or the whole drive if you're paranoid (I used TrueCrypt for both).

Alex Nicol
February 28, 2011 11:13 AM

I do not have a pass word because all my kin at my home use my computer.No problem.

Reid
March 1, 2011 8:12 AM

Using the "netplwiz" applet allows you to uncheck an option that reads "Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer." That seems like it may impact more than just logon but I'm not sure. Does this method bypass UAC protection?

Jules
March 1, 2011 8:34 AM

I have a related question. How do I automatically log on to my NAS . Right now I have to type a user name and password to access my files on a NAS.

realist
March 1, 2011 8:43 AM

I think it's insane to have automatic login. It's a major security risk and even more so if that user has administrator rights.

ONE PC needs TWO users, one with and one without administrator rights. Both should have passwords and you shouldn't be logging in with administrator rights all the time anyway. Other than actually installing and uninstalling software, no applications (except CD burning) need administrator rights.

Ted
March 1, 2011 8:46 AM

I've always felt somewhat safe that all my "stuff" would be safe (from most) should I ever be burglarized and my machine stolen. This would take that away. I think it best to keep it password protected.

If your machine is stolen your login password is trivial to work around. Seriously, requirign or not requiring a password on login makes almost zero difference when it comes to loss of security due to computer theft. This article is one reason why: I've lost the password to my Windows Administrator account, how do I get it back?
Leo
04-Mar-2011

Carol Putman
March 1, 2011 11:26 AM

When I first got the computer, I would have thought this very convenient. But, on good advise I now have two users on my computer. One is my account as an "administrator" and the other is my account as a "limited" user. Email, web surfing (and little else) is done as a "limited" user. Downloads, updates and settings changes are done from the 'administrator" account. No email and web surfing only to download programs and updates from well-known sites. This arrangement is supposed to add a layer of protection when one is getting email and web surfing.

Daniel LaPlante
March 1, 2011 2:01 PM

Hi, I have Win2K, XP Home, XP Pro, Vista boxes, and a laptop in my house all on one networked domain, which all log on as admin automatically. I recently rebuilt the Vista box because....well it's Vista. I got tired of the "enter password" reboots so Windows Vista [in it's own help] showed me if you log on as an admin, go to User Accounts, enter the password, then below "remove password" it will log on automatically. XP was a little harder to boot automatically. Same as that BS to get number lock to be turned on when booting XP Pro.

Ancillary info: XP Pro box downstairs is for my recording studio; XP Pro laptop for work; XP Pro box for my general use; XP Home for my wife; some Win2K boxes I'm building for needy families; and a couple of XP Home boxes I'm rebuilding for friends. This is just a hobby. BTW, no kids but I have a cat who surfs kitty porn when I'm asleep.

Leo--you rock!
dano

Mark Aurel
March 1, 2011 3:49 PM

There is a simple method, built into windows,
http://news.softpedia.com/news/Bypass-the-Windows-Vista-Logon-Screen-51806.shtml

Ron L
March 1, 2011 7:06 PM

For Windows XP one can also use the Microsoft Power Toy "TweakUI" for auto logon. I do, and have done so for years. I cannot speak as to its applicability for any other version of Windows.

It works, and I believe I have it referenced for this in an older article. I like this solution better because it works on all Windows versions XP and later, and it's incredibly simple, unlike many of the solutions that admittedly are built in.
Leo
04-Mar-2011

Jason Muj
March 2, 2011 5:11 AM

Auto login? Awesome! This is a new one to me, guess I just never really thought about it. But, I'm going for it on my main home tower. Why not? Anyone in my home has physical access and could easily own my machine anyway with a few minutes research from a another console. I know because I've had to hack past windows a few times for friends that couldn't remember passwords. I had no idea it was so easy. Thanks for the info Leo.

Sheryl Spencer
March 2, 2011 4:45 PM

Automatic's can be great, but what about the "what if's?",,, The biggest one - What if your home gets broken into and your computer stolen? Are you sure that the minute or two it takes to login are worth taking that chance?

I love passwords! The extra time it takes to type a pw is worth the extra security against the "what if's!"

I mentioned this in response to another comment, but a login password will not protect you in the case of computer theft. It's trivially easy to bypass if you have physical access to the machine, which by definition a theif would.
Leo
04-Mar-2011

rlegro
March 8, 2011 9:38 AM

I've got a slightly different problem. I want to keep Vista's login screens but since I installed a little Media Center third-party tool that will awaken the PC to record a show, auto-entering my password in the process, all my login screens have disappeared. Killing the tool doesn't help. Yet Control Panel User Accounts says my passwords are all intact. Go figure. This is just like when Vista tells me it can see my printer, but that it can't see my printer -- in different Control Panel tabs, of course. Is Win7 any better at this stuff? A c-note or two better?

Gerry M.
March 10, 2011 9:06 AM

Being somewhat PC-challenged I'm probably doing something wrong??? I installed Autologon on my Windows 7--64 bit PC easily. However it only eliminates the Windows Login screen from Start/Restart...NOT from Sleep or Hibernate. Since I use Sleep/Hibernate much more frequently than Start/Restart is there a way to get Autologon to eliminate the Windows Login screen at ALL times?

Sleep and hibernate are not logins. You're already logged in - you're just coming back from sleep or hibernate. Check the options for sleep and hibernate and you should be able to turn off the password requirement.
Leo
10-Mar-2011

FYI I posted a new article on this: How do I avoid needing a password after standby or hibernation?
Leo
11-Mar-2011

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