Eliminating the Welcome Screen

by Mitch Tulloch [Published on 26 Oct. 2005 / Last Updated on 26 Oct. 2005]

How to prevent the Welcome screen from running when your users turn on their OEM-supplied XP boxes for the first time.

If your company buys OEM boxes with Windows XP from vendors like Dell, you may be frustrated by the fact that when users turn on their machines for the first time the Windows Welcome wizard runs instead of mini-setup. The main frustration for administrators here is that when users step through the various screens of the Welcome wizard, one of those screens prompts the user to create a new user so they can log on as that user. Unfortunately, this new user that is created (a) has no password and (b) is a member of the local Administrators group on the machine. This is not good from a security standpoint--you don't want your users to be local admins, and you don't want accounts without passwords.

Fortunately, there's a workaround you can use to boot to mini-setup instead of the Welcome screen. Before you give your users their nice shiny new Dell boxes, you can:

  1. Boot them into the first screen of the Welcome wizard.
  2. Press CTRL+SHIFT+F3
  3. Accept the EULA.
  4. Reboot the machine into Sysprep factory mode.
  5. Select the mini-setup option and reseal.
  6. Create a sysprep.inf file to provide answers to mini-setup prompts.
  7. Give the box to the user along with a floppy containing sysprep.inf and tell them to boot their machine.

Once this is done, mini-setup will run instead of the Welcome wizard and the machine will configure itself automatically instead of requiring the user to respond to a series of prompts.

Mitch Tulloch (MVP Windows Server) is a well-known industry expert in Windows administration and security and author of fourteen books including the Microsoft Encyclopedia of Networking, the Microsoft Encyclopedia of Security, Windows Server Hacks and IIS6 Administration. Mitch is based in Winnipeg, Canada and is President of MTIT Enterprises, an IT content development company. You can find more information about him on his website www.mtit.com

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