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XP Syskey trick to lock down your computer

XP Syskey Trick

Last week we mentioned the #1 Rule of Internet Parenting: Kids don’t cruise the web without at least occasional supervision by a human being. What do you do when you aren’t home? There are a few ways to make it impossible for the kids to log onto your PC without your permission.

1. Sure, you could add a password to your system, but there are ways to get around that. This is the simplest, but if your kids (or their friends) are pretty PC-savvy, you might still find odd sites in the History.

2. You could use a desktop lockdown program like Deskman (free download). This is more secure than a simple password, but easier than the next method to set up. Still, if you need to tinker through our tips a few times, be very, very careful with this one. We can’t get you out of the trouble you could create for your system or offer support for the download. Write down every step of what you’re doing and your username and password as you go through this process, and stick them somewhere the kiddies won’t find them.

3. The syskey is a command line tool to help you enable your Startup Key. Without getting too techy on you, the Startup key is a complex algorithm that if configured can stop anyone from logging on to your system who doesn’t possess the key. No startup screen or user accounts will be available until you present the key, just a black screen with one small lonely window asking for the Startup Key to gain access. The Startup Key, which is a floppy disk with the appropriate key code, simply needs to be inserted into the floppy drive and activated. This will satisfy the security request and allow you to proceed to the login screen. If you don’t have a floppy drive, then you can’t do this.

The Startup Key is created when you enable the Startup Key process as described later in this article. One thing you must keep in mind, and is of the utmost importance: you should make at least one extra copy of this floppy, test them to insure that they work, and put them in separate safe places. If you lose this Key, you will not be able to log into your Operating System. You may even want to make a third copy to keep off-site. If you do lose your Startup key, then your only option is to use a Restore Disk (If you have one) to restore your registry to a state it was prior to the enabling of Startup Key.

Yes, this is an advanced tip. If you’re the kind of user who needs to tinker through our tips a few times to get them working properly on your system, you might not want to try this one. We can’t get you out of the trouble you could create for your system with this one. Write down every step of what you’re doing and your username and password as you go through this process, and stick them somewhere the kiddies won’t find them.

OK, if this sounds like a security measure you would like to put into action, then follow the directions below. Again, please make at least one copy of this disk so you don’t lock yourself out of your system and send us a bunch of hate e-mail. Well, with that said twice, it’s show time. The directions below will help you get things set up, and below this tip is a link out to Microsoft’s information on this so you can look it over before setting this up.

1. Go to Start/Run and in the blank field type “syskey” press enter , or OK .


2. You should see a small window titled Securing the Windows XP Account Database. From this Window select the Update button to move to the next window.


3. The Startup Key is the next window. You’ll see a couple of options there, but the one we want is Startup Key on floppy disk, along with some warning about how your system is going to startup now.


4. After selecting this, click OK, and a pop-up will alert you that the key has been changed. Another message follows asking you to insert a disk in drive A: (Floppy drive).

5. Insert the floppy, click OK, and one more window will come up telling you that the Key has been changed and you need to have this floppy disk in order to log into Windows. That’s exactly what we want.

When you’re all done, eject the floppy (you might want to slide the little lock up on the floppy to insure you don’t format it on accident) and restart the PC. Windows will appear to come up normally, but after it loads the kernel, the Windows XP Startup Key Disk window pops up. Put your Startup Key floppy in the floppy drive, and select OK. You’ll see Windows load up and bring you to your user logon screen.

This is a cool trick and really helps lock down your PC.

We hope you find the method that works best for you and your household, but please be careful.

~ Chad and Chris Chad Stelnicki and Chris Fisher

Info on adding a system password:

Deskman info and a link to the download:

Here’s the Link to MS information on Startup key…
MS Web Site

If this link doesn’t work for you, you may need to copy it into the Address Bar of your browser in two pieces.