Tips and Tricks
Vista Log-In Hacks
Security has been a major selling point for Windows Vista, despite the fact that some of its best security features are turned off by default. For example, a password is optional in Vista, yet you can't share files on a network without one. Of course, once you create a password, you're doomed to retype it each time you power on your PC. And thus begin the daily visits to the Welcome/log-in screen. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to tweak this seemingly invariable interface, for convenience. Note that both these hacks require administrator level privileges.
Logging In AutomaticallyTo keep your password intact yet skip the Welcome screen and have Vista log you in automatically each time you start up Windows, enter the User Accounts window but not the one in the Control Panel. To get to the first of two advanced User Accounts tools in Vista, open the Start menu and in the search box type control userpasswords2 and hit Enter. Select your username from the list, turn off the Users must enter a username and password to use this computer option, and then click OK. When prompted, enter your password (twice) and click OK.
Next, open the Power Options window in Control Panel. Click Change plan settings under the currently selected plan, and then click Change advanced power settings on the next page. Now, under the Additional settings branch, set the Require a password on wakeup option to No and click OK.
The last step is to jump to the Personalization page in the Control Panel and then click Screen Saver. Here, turn off the On resume, display logon screen option, and click OK. With all these options disabled, you'll get to your desktop more quickly and with less typing.
Changing the Welcome Screen WallpaperIf you have decided not to log on automatically, you'll undoubtedly be spending time with your PC's Welcome screen, in which case you might as well make it look the way you want it. In earlier versions of Windows, you could change the background wallpaper with a quick Registry change, but in Vista, a little more hacking is required.
Open Windows Explorer and navigate to your \Windows\system32 folder. Right-click the imageres.dll file, select Properties, and choose the Security tab. Click the Advanced button, choose the Owner tab, and then click Edit. Now select Administrators in the list, and click OK in each of the four open windows. Then right-click imageres.dll again, select Properties, choose the Security tab, and click the Edit button. Choose Administrators in the list, place a check in the Allow column next to Full control, and then click OK, Yes, OK.
Now that you've taken ownership of the file, make two copies of it right in the \Windows\system32 folder and name them imageres-new.dll and imageres-old.dll.
Next, you'll need to install XN Resource Editor, a free utility available at www .wilsonc.demon.co.uk/dlOresourceeditor.htm. Open XN, select View|Options, and from the Choose which parser to use list, select XN Resource Editor internal resource parser. Click OK and then, from the File menu, select Open, find the imageres-new.dll file, and open it.
On the left, you'll see a tree you can use to navigate the various graphical and user interface resources in the file; expand the IMAGE branch and then open one of the numbered folders therein. Inside each numbered folder is a single entry representing a different resolution of the stock Welcome screen background image. Choose the one corresponding to your PC's current display resolution (the dimensions are shown in the gray box once you select the entry); if you don't know your current resolution, open the Personalization page in Control Panel and click Display Settings.
You can edit the image right in XN Resource Editor, but you'll likely want to grab a photo from somewhere else. Any photo will do, provided it has exactly the same pixel dimensions as the one it's replacing. If it's too big, use your favorite image editor to shrink and crop it to size. Too small? Just pad it with black space. When you're ready, copy your new image to the clipboard (Ctrl-C) and then return to XN and press Ctrl-V to paste it over the selected image. Save the file and close XN when you're done.
The last step is to replace the imageres.dll file with the one you've modified, but since it's in use, Windows won't let you touch it. To get around this, restart Windows. After the screen goes black, but just before you see the Windows boot screen, press the F8 key to display the Advanced Boot Options menu. (Restart again if you miss your chance.) Use the arrow keys to select Safe Mode with Command Prompt, and press Enter. When the Command Prompt window appears, click the window and type:
copy imageres-new.dll imageres.dll
and answer Y to confirm that you want to replace the file. When you're done, press Ctrl-Alt-Del, click the arrow next to the red button on the bottom right hand side of the screen and select Restart. The next time you see the Welcome screen, it should look different, if not better.