I have a non-daemon server app that my Windows 2003 server needs to run all the time. The problem is, every time the server restarts, be it electricity or windows update, someone needs to press Ctrl+Alt+Del and enter username/password. Then the program starts, as it's in Startup. How do I make Windows 2003 to automatically log in to Administrator (or spawn a terminal services session) every time the system boots?

I know it's against the nature of servers and all. But this is the only thing the server does.

5 Answers 5


There's a registry hack that allows you to perform an automatic login by storing user creditials in the registry. It's not secure, but it does what you want.

  • 7
    You can add this shortcut to your startup items to lock the machine after it logs in. technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc750823.aspx This lets your application run but doesn't leave your machine unsecured. I have used this successfully in a similar situation and it works perfectly.
    – minamhere
    Feb 12, 2010 at 15:39
  • @minamhere Win + L does the same thing! Jan 20, 2015 at 7:06

I would suggest creating a service which you can do from any .exe with this method.

This will make your program run on startup without having to login. If you subsequently need to interact with the program you can connect to the console session.

  • +1; running it as a service is the way to go. Alternatively pop it in a computer startup script in the local policy. Feb 12, 2010 at 13:53
  • 2
    This is a good answer, with a caveat. This doesn't work for everything, so it does requires testing.
    – mfinni
    Feb 12, 2010 at 16:40

I had the same situation a few years back. You can use the run command to open the old Users / Passwords by running "control userpasswords2" in the run dialog. It is easier to setup a user to auto login then the registry hack. I then had a script that would start the program I needed and lock the PC so it wasn't left unsecured. Like the link above "rundll32.exe user32.dll,LockWorkStation" will lock the work station or server in this case.

  1. Run gpedit.msc

Under Local Computer Policy > Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > System, set "Display Shutdown Event Tracker" to "Not configured".

Group Policy Object Editor

  1. Run control userpasswords2

  2. Uncheck "User must enter user name and password to use this computer."

User must enter user name and password to use this computer.

  1. Enter your password into the dialog that pops up.

Automatically Log On

  1. Also, via Desktop > right-click > [Display] Properties > Screen Saver (tab) > Power... (button) > Advanced (tab), uncheck "Prompt for password when computer resumes from standby":

Prompt for password when computer resumes from standby

  1. Run control userpasswords2
  2. Uncheck checkbox "User must enter user name and password to use this computer."
  3. Run gpedit.msc Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > System > Display Shutdown Event Tracker > Settings, and select radio button: "Disabled" (or "Not configured").

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