Easy Way to Secure Windows 9x/2000, NT Machine

Anders Gustafsson of the Aaland Islands, Finland, writes that there's a quick and easy way to lock a Microsoft Corp. Windows 9x/2000 or Windows NT machine to password-protect it when you walk away.

It may not be immediately obvious why this is important, so allow me to explain.

Many people believe that they can launch their screen saver under Windows 2000 and -- as long as the saver is configured with a password -- no one else can get into their workstation while they're away from it.

Unfortunately, this isn't the case.

If you start your screen saver by running an .SCR file manually or from the Microsoft Office toolbar -- and you don't wait for the 15-minute (or whatever) delay that makes your saver kick in -- there's no password protection. A pretty pattern may be dancing on your screen, but your workstation isn't protected.

So what should you do if you want to secure your workstation when you walk away but you don't want to wait several minutes for your screen saver to launch itself?

In Windows 2000, you can specify a single keystroke that will lock your workstation until you or an authorized person enters the correct password. Here's how.

Step 1. In Windows 2000, right-click an empty area of the desktop.

Step 2. On the context menu that appears, click New, then click Shortcut.

Step 3. In the Create Shortcut dialog box, type the following command (this command is both "space-and case-sensitive"):rundll32 user32.dll,LockWork StationStep 4. Click the Next button.

Step 5. In the Select a Title dialog box, type Lock Workstation or a title of your own choosing. Click Finish.

Step 6. A new shortcut appears on your Desktop. Right-click this shortcut, then click Properties.

Step 7. Place your cursor in the Shortcut Key box to define a key combination that will run this command. If you press any printable key A-Z or 0-9, the defined key combination will be Ctrl+Alt plus the key you pressed. You can also hold down Shift+Alt or Ctrl+Shift plus a printable key.

Here's a secret for a faster shortcut, however: Use a symbol key on your numeric keypad. For example, if you press the minus key (-) on your keypad, Windows will use this as your shortcut key without requiring Ctrl, Alt, or Shift. Then, when you want to lock your workstation, just press your numeric minus key. This key is easily reached in the upper-right corner of your keypad, but it isn't a key you're likely to hit accidentally.

Step 8. After you've selected your shortcut key in the dialog box, click OK.

Step 9. Drag the shortcut icon from your Desktop and drop it on your Start button.

You can now lock your workstation by pressing your chosen key combination, running the shortcut from your Start menu, or running the shortcut from the desktop.

Under Windows 2000, you could do the three-finger salute (Ctrl+Alt+Delete) and then click the Lock Computer button with your mouse. This protects your workstation until you or an authorized person enters the correct password. But because this takes several steps, many people might simply walk away or launch a screen saver from a shortcut, leaving their PC open to inquisitive co-workers. Instead, you can easily define a single key in Windows 2000 to tap when you walk away from your desk. This provides ideal protection. Here's how:

For more information on this trick -- and a way to program a command to do this under Windows NT -- see support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/Q262/6/46.ASP.

You can start a password-protected screen saver under Windows 9x with the command start.exe filename.scr, or with NCShtDwn from www.novell.com/coolsolutions/freetools.html.

Reader Gustafsson will receive a free copy of Windows 2000 Secrets for being the first to write me about this idea.

Now you can tweak Me

A new version of TweakUI, a tool that controls many hidden features, now supports Windows Me, as well as Windows 9x/2000 and Windows NT. Go to www.microsoft.com/ntworkstation/downloads/PowerToys/Networking/NTTweakUI.asp. After you decompress the download file, right-click tweakui.inf, then click Install.

An even more versatile utility, TweakAll, is still available at www.abtons-shed.com. But it works only under Windows 98 and 95.

Reader Jim Unroe will receive a free copy of Windows Me Secrets for sending this tip.

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Brian Livingston's latest book is Windows Me Secrets (IDG Books). Send tips to brian_livingston@infoworld.com. He regrets that he cannot answer individual questions.

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