Tipping Points

February 11, 2006

Customizing the Windows Login Shell

Filed under: Compsci — tippingpoints @ 5:44 pm

A new blog! What better way to enter the blogosphere than with a technical post (with the possible sidenote that I’m 6′, and not 5’1″, as the below post erroneously indicates)? I should note that most of my posts will be on Linux, since I almost never use Windows, but recently I did find this interesting modification to Windows XP Home:

Usually, logging into Windows results in the executable c:\windows\explorer.exe being run, which produces the background with icons and a desktop image, the taskbar, and some other familiar Windows things. However, this can be replaced by tweaking the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\WinLogon\Shell key (it’s something like that — I’m typing from memory). There is some interesting behavior associated with changing its value; for instance, if you leave the machine default (that’s the LOCAL_MACHINE part) as Explorer, then when you run Explorer from a login session, regardless of what your user-level shell setting is (HKEY_USERS\username\…), then Explorer will appear normally in the background; however, if Explorer is not the machine-default shell, then it will appear only as a foreground window.

I personally prefer to have c:\windows\system32\cmd.exe as my login shell, and combined with CygWin (www.cygwin.com), it provides a very capable, low-memory environment.

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