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XP SysKey Trick

Posted By On November 10, 2004 @ 10:53 AM In Security Help | No Comments

e XP SysKey Trick

If you have Windows XP then I really think you’re going to like this week’s security tip. Are you in a situation where you really don’t want anybody accessing the family PC while you’re not around? Maybe you don’t want anybody to use your computer at all. Maybe you just want a little tighter control over when and by whom your PC gets used. If any of these situations sounds like yours then read on.

This week’s security tip is on the syskey command. 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 poses the key. No startup screen or user accounts will be available until you present the key—you’re basically looking at 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 I’m afraid you might as well stop reading now.

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 copy of this floppy, test it to insure that it works, and put it in a safe place. If you lose this Key you will not be able to log into you 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.

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 me a bunch of hate e-mail. Well, with that said twice I guess it’s show time. The directions below will help you get things set up, and below that I have attached a link out to Microsoft’s information on this so you can look it over.

CONFIGURING STARTUP KEY:

* Go to Start/Run and in the blank field type “syskey” press enter , or OK .
* 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.
* The “Startup Key” is the next window. You’ll see a couple of options there, but the one we are looking for says “Startup Key on floppy disk”, along with some warning about how your system is going to startup now.
* 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).
* 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 go ahead and 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. Grab your Startup Key floppy put it in the floppy drive, and select OK . You’ll see Windows load up and bring you to your user logon screen.

I told you this is a cool trick and really helps lock down you PC. I hope you get some use out of this, but please be careful.

Until next week, stay safe.

~ Chad

P.S. Here’s the Link to MS information on Startup key…
http://www.microsoft.com/resources/documentation/Windows/XP/all/reskit/en-us/Default.asp?url=/resources/documentation/windows/xp/all/reskit/en-us/prnb_efs_zbxr.asp


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