How to launch programs from the Windows Logon screen

It does happen from time to time, that I want to start some troubleshooting tools before a user logs on to the system. For example Sysinternals Process Monitor or xperf / wpr etc.

There are several ways to do it, as with most things with IT. You can either logon with another user, start the tools and then use Fast User Switching.
Or enable Boot Logging to get the full boot sequence + logon for a user.
Or use Psexec from a remote system, etc etc
Another way to do it, is to execute any tool of your choice from the Windows logon (winlogon) screen. The nice side effect is that you will be executing the tool as System, with full permissions.

I recently had to troubleshoot a “Password Reset” solution, which launches a browser from the Logon screen and it were unable to connect to the web-service. If you ran it from within windows as a normal user account, or system account, it worked. So I had to troubleshoot the problem as it was happening.

  1. Logon as a local administrator
  2. Make a copy of %windir%\system32\utilman.exe
  3. Take ownership of %windir%\system32\utilman.exe
  4. Grant yourself full control permission on the file.
  5. Replace utilman.exe with cmd.exe (or any other tool of your choise, though CMD is good as you can execute other tools from that one).
  6. At the windows logon screen press the “Accessibility icon” in the bottom left corner.
  7. Wahoo, you now have a command prompt with System Access

This works on Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8.

 

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