How-to Create a default user in Windows Vista/7

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Sep 26 2009

In Windows Vista and Windows 7 there are two ways you can create a modified default user profile. One is automatic and the other is manual. The automatic way is the recommended way according to Microsoft. However, you may run into some problems using this way so I will explain it the manual way too.

First up is the automatic way. For the automatic way you have to use the system preparation (sysprep) tool that Microsoft provides built into Windows Vista and 7. This tool is used for a variety of things but is mainly used for when you need to create a single computer image to put onto multiple machines. To see all the crazy things sysprep can do read the technical documentation on creating an unattend.xml file for sysprep to change everything from your sidebar widgets to your computer name.
Once you have your unattend.xml file created you just need to make sure you have the CopyProfile option turned on in the “specialize” pass and you should be all set.


A few things to note if you are going to do it this way.
1. The account you run the sysprep command from is going to be the account that is copied to the Default profile. So make sure the account you are running sysprep from has admin rights and is set up exactly as you want it.
2. The administrator account is removed during sysprep. Even if you have everything set up the way you want it to be admin will get the same settings as Default user unless you do some fancy scripting.
You can do some more reading on using this method with the following KB article.

Now for the manual method. This method is good if you don’t want to sysprep the computer because all you want to do is change some items for all the users that are going to be logging into a computer. I got all this information from this technet thread but I have used this mothod pretty extensively.
First thing you have to do is to create the profile just as you want it (same as the automatic steps). In this situation though you need to create a second user account because you are going to use the local administrator account to copy all of the settings from the second account to the default profile.
Once everything is set up just the way you want it, restart the computer and log into the local administrator.
After you log in follow the steps below.

1. Right click Computer and select Properties
2. Select Advanced System Properties (elevating as required)
3. In the system properties dialog click the Settings button under User Profiles
4. Select the account you want to use as a template
5. Click Copy To
6. Change the “permitted to use” option to “Everyone”
7. Use the Browse button to select the location of the default profile (C:\Users\Default) You will need hidden files shown to see this.
8. Click OK
9. Click Yes to overwrite the existing default profile

The steps above copy all the files and settings to the profile but there are still things in there that probably reference your old account you had created. To get rid of all those references to the other account you will need to edit the registry hive of the Default user. Follow the steps below to remove all traces of your template account from the default user.

1. Enable “Show hidden files and folders” in Folder Options
2. Disable “Hide Protected Operating System files” in Folder Options
3. Launch Regedit
4. Select HKEY_USERS and go to File -> load hive
5. Navigate to the profile directly of the user you want to load (e.g. C:\users\default for the default user)
6. Open the ntuser.dat file
7. Provide a name for the hive, this will be used as the root key name for that hive under HKU
8. Search the hive for any reference to your old user account.
9. When you find any keys that reference your old user account you can delete the keys (they will be re-created when someone new logs in).
10. Unload the hive before attempting to log in as the user

After you have finished you can log in with a new user to test that all the correct settings transferred to the default profile. If you are satisfied with everything go ahead and go back to System Properties -> Advanced System Properties -> User Profiles and delete the account you set up for the Default User template.

If you have any questions, comments, or problems feel free to leave a comment. I hope this helps.

How-to enable blank passwords in Windows

3 Comments | This entry was posted on May 14 2009

If you set up a user account in Windows and you want to allow the user account to have a blank password you may find it a little difficult. In order to accomplish this you probably need to change a couple settings in Windows.

The error message you probably got is:

The password does not meet the password policy requirements. Check the minimum password length, password complexity and password history requirements.

To allow a blank password go to Start -> Run and type in gpedit.msc then hit enter.
You should get a window that pops up and has a whole bunch of settings you may have never seen before. On the left side expand Windows Settings -> Security Settings -> Account Policies and then click on Password Policy. On the right side you will need to change a few of the settings.
The three settings you will need to change are Maximum password age, Minimum password length, and Password must meet complexity requirements. Change maximum age and maximum length both to zero and disable the complexity requirements. Once you have these three settings changed you can just close out the window and now you should be able to set a blank password for your user account.
If you cannot change these settings you may be joined to a domain which has these settings locked down. I can’t help you there, but this should help in most other cases.
Let me know if this helps, or doesn’t help, in the comments.

Windows Vista temporary user profile

2 Comments | This entry was posted on Oct 09 2008

Sometimes when a user logs into their vista machine they are greeted with a temporary user profile. This is caused from a few different things but the main causes are
1. The computer cannot authenticate the user on the domain (usually because it did not get a respond from the domain controller). Or the computer is no longer a part of the domain.
2. The user is part of the Guest user group.
3. The user profile folder/user name was not available or the user already existed in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList
4. The login service failed to start on the machine prior to logging into the machine.

The main indication that the user is using a temporary user profile is all of their documents appear to be missing (desktop, documents, favorites, etc.). Any settings the user may have are also set to default (default background, screen saver), and the user will have this popup in the lower right hand corner.

The popup warns the user saying “User profile was not loaded correctly. You have been logged on with a temporary profile. Changes you make to this profile will be lost when you log off. Please see the event log for details or contact your administrator”

If this problem happens for a user the first thing that will probably fix the problem is restarting the computer (so the computer can connect to the domain controller). If that does not fix the problem please put in a work order so we can look at the problem and narrow down why this is happening.

One important thing to note when the user is logged into a temporary user is that their documents in their profile are not lost. Nothing has been erased they are just logged in as a different user. It is also important that the user does not save anything to the temporary profile. If they need to save a document they should email it to themselves using, save the document to one of their network drives, or save files to a usb drive. If anything is saved to the desktop, documents, or favorites of the temporary profile it will be lost once the user is logged off.

Please see these links for more information.

Windows tools

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Mar 04 2008

So I thought I would clean out a few more pinned articles in my bloglines before I went to bed. By a few, I mean 9. Lets just get started with this.

The first one is real simple. This is how you can easily disable Aero before running a program. In many cases you would want to do this before running a 3D intensive game. All you have to do is find the shortcut, right click and go to properties, click the compatability tab and check the box that says “Disable desktop composition”. That is it. Aero will disable itself next time you launch the shortcut and enable itself when the program is done.

The next tip it two-fold. First there is a quick tip on how to backup your DVD’s with 1 click. Sure that 1 click is going to take you a few hours to complete, but all you have to do is click once. The second part is a bit more involved but shows you how to backup your DVD’s and play them easily on a PS3. Sure you could always put the DVD in the PS3 and play it but who wants to get up? This uses a great tool, which I have yet to use, called PS3 Video 9.

Next up is another two parter and this is all about extracting things you never knew you could extract out of Windows. If you want to use a icon that a certain program uses. You can use IconsExtract or if you want to extract all the drivers you are using, to save as a backup, you can use DriverMax.

One of the last useful updates I have is a visual tweaker for Vista. It is called Vista Visual Master and has a lot of very useful tools. It gave me the ability to use custom themes again after I installed SP1 and that is worth a download itself.

Here are a few that most people probably won’t find very useful but I am going to give them a try for various reasons.

To remove passwords from Excel documents you can either buy a tool called Excel Password Remover or you can run one of many macros that will remove the password for free. I want to link to the full article so you can see all the comments with the macro options.

The last two I have are random but I know I will need them one day. First is a way to disable cached domain logins in Windows. This also may work to increase the number of logins available when off the domain but I need to test with that. To do it all you have to do is open the registry and find:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon

Once you find that just change the cashedlogonscount to whatever value you want. Note that 0 disables this ability.

This last one will come in real handy when making my classroom images. A tool called CleanHandler will clean up those autoplay options that pop up in Windows when a cd/usb stick are plugged in.

I feel pretty good after that update so I will leave you with that.

How-to set a screensaver before login in Windows XP/Vista

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Jan 29 2008

I haven’t fully tested this for Vista yet but it has the same key as XP so I am assuming it works the same. This is very similar to the setting up a default wallpaper but you use the SCRNSAVE.EXE key instead of Wallpaper.

Browse the registry to

HKUS\.DEFAULT\Control Panel\Desktop

Just change the SCRNSAVE.EXE key to wherever your .scr file is located. There is also options for setting if there is any screensaver, ScreenSaveActive, the time out, ScreenSaveTimeOut, and if the screensaver is secure which seems dumb to me since no one has logged into the computer yet, but whatever.

Catching up

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Dec 07 2007

I have had quite a few articles and tools that I have been wanting to post here but I haven’t made the time to do it. So I guess I am just going to make one big post for all of them. Most of these tools came from the wonderful How-to Geek but there are a few other good ones in the mix.

First up is replacing your task manager with process explorer in Windows Vista. In XP it is usually as simple as going to options and clicking on replace task manager. In Vista there is a bit more of a trick to it if you still have UAC ruling your life. UAC is the first thing I turn off in Vista so there wasn’t any problem for me. Head over to the How-to Geek for further instructions and screenshots.

The next tip is all about drivers. First you could always see what drivers you have installed at the command line, but that isn’t very fun. I guess you could see what drivers are installed and export the list to a text document, excel spreadsheet, or something else. Or you could just transfer the drivers directly from one machine to another. This is great news if you are moving from one computer to another, or if you are just having problems with your computer and want to do some troubleshooting.

Downloadsquad makes the list of useful tools with the Revo Uninstaller. I have never heard of it before but already really like it. Not only can it uninstall your programs and search for left over files and registry entry’s, but it also has built in shortcuts like the on screen keyboard, msconfig, system properties, etc. And because the new version is free AND portable I can keep it on my usb key and take it with me when troubleshooting machines.

Downloadsquad also showed me a Universal Extractor that could be very useful for extracting files that 7-zip can’t already open. I haven’t tried it yet but I defiantly want to keep it in my bag of tricks.

You would think this post would be done now because there is already so much stuff. But I have been procrastinating for a while now on these tools.

Inventgeek had one of the best do-it-yourself articles I have sen for a while. How to make your own thermal paste from diamond dust. I really want to give this one a try on my PS3 but it is going to have to wait just a little bit. I am still a bit nervous about putting it back together. The opening up doesn’t scare me at all. It is only the reassembly.

The last two articles go back to the How-to Geek. If you support machines like I do you probably use the Group Policy Editor quite a bit in Windows XP. This tip shows you how to add it to the control panel. There is also one for adding User Accounts Utility (userpasswords2) in the control panel.

Last but not least. How to Remote Control Leopard with TightVNC brought to you by Lifehacker.

Well I am officially caught up with the articles I wanted to add here. Now I think I will try some of them out and maybe play some more video games.

How to apply custom themes to Vista

1 Comment | This entry was posted on Nov 14 2007

So after a bit of searching around I was able to use custom themes for Windows Vista. Here is what you need to do it yourself. There is a awesome tutorial on how to do everything manually over at the GuiMods forum, but who wants to do all that. All you got to do is download VistaGlazz and click the first icon to patch your dll files.

Vista Glazz

Once the patch is done you will need to restart (to reload the files into aero).

After the restart clear some space on your hard drive to download some visual styles. You are going to be looking for .msstyles files. Once you download the file you will want to copy them over to your \Windows\Resources\Themes folder and double click on them. Your “Appearance Settings” window will open and you can apply the newly installed theme and you are done. Give a few a try to find the one you like best.

Here are a couple of links to find some new themes:

Gui Modes Vista Visual Styles
DiviantART Vista Styles
Neowin Forums

Oh, and lets not forget about your vista sidebar. How-to Geek found some great software to apply custom themes to that too. Download the Windows Sidebar Styler and install it. I would tell you how to use the program but you can just head over to the How-to Geek for that.

BTW I am currently using Curved Sidebar and Ezlo Thin Style.

*EDIT* Just to let everyone know. It appears that with Vista SP1 RC1 build 6001 this doesn’t work anymore. The SP1 installer replaces the hacked dll’s and Vista Glazz shows that the dll’s are corrupt now. It may work if I hack them again but I need to test SP1 a bit more before I do that. I will keep this post updated with what I find.

*EDIT* I want to keep this up to date.  If you have Vista SP1 you will need to download the new UxTheme patches that Vista SP1 requires.  I uploaded the 32 bit version here.  If you need x64 or Windows server patches you can head over to where I got them. You can also patch the files the easy way with Vista Visual Master from vista123. Vista Visual Master lets you do a whole lot more than just patch your UxTheme files but you can read about all that over at their site.

*EDIT* I heard that the guy that actually made Vista Glazz worked with someone to make a new/easier tool for custom themes. I think it works with Windows Vista and Windows 7 but I haven’t tried it myself. I just wanted to keep everyone updated on what I found. The new site is called UxStyle. Let me know if you try it and find it useful.