Some users who connect to the server using Remote Desktop (mstsc) are locked to a particular program: when they login, the program starts; when they quit the program, they're logged out.

One of them has tired of the Lilac color scheme, and would prefer Maple. Is there an easier way to change his colorscheme than to unlock his account, have him login, right-click on the desktop, change, save, logout, re-lock his account?

He is running Windows XP, and the server is Windows 2003.


In the past, we've added buttons to the locked down program which allow the "color scheme" Control Panel item to be opened. (desk.cpl)


This worked fine til we moved to Server 2008. The cdesk.cpl has changed, so opening it also gives you access to the filesystem (They've added an open button)

This prompted me to ask this question over at stackoverflow. The answers were not great...


In your situation, I'd look at loading a registry file at time of login "maple.reg", etc. depending on which profile they want. Note that they'll need to logout and log back in for the color changes to take effect.


A (complete) hack would be to export HKCU\Control Panel\Colors from a machine that is using the Maple scheme and merge that reg file as part of their login script. Or you could get their SID and put it directly in under HKU

Would probably take 2 logins for them to see...


All the alternatives would take MUCH longer than just logging him in and changing his desktop colour scheme.

  • Sometimes getting approval to disable temporarily the "start the program at logon" environment setting can take a long time, too. What are the alternatives? Would I edit his registry manually? – Thomas L Holaday Jul 6 '09 at 17:15
  • 1
    Squillman provided the easiest method of changing their theme (the editing the HKU hive) - as you can see it's quite time consuming. Can you not do the following? 1) Change users password 2) unrestrict his account 3) you log in and change theme 4) log out 5) restrict account 6) reset his password again, and set "User must change pwd at next logon" - seems much quicker than fudging around with dozens of registry key changes – Izzy Jul 6 '09 at 17:24

Help me here SF if I am wrong.

I believe that the program starting up and then the session ending is due to the "Enviroment" tab being set with a particular program in Active Directory. You should see a "Start the following program at logon:" Depsite its name it is not just started at logon, but is the only program that is run. Uncheck this box, and that behavior should change.

As far as the desktop and themiming is concerned, my stardard users have the rights to change that and some of them do. I wonder if the "Start the following program at logon" is preventing the getting to the desktop to change things.

  • Yes, the "start the program at login" prevents the users from accessing the desktop, and that is a policy decision. – Thomas L Holaday Jul 6 '09 at 17:12
  • ah I see, you are doing this on purpose. I was under the impression you weren't sure why the computer was acting this way. The question makes more sense now. – Matt Jul 6 '09 at 17:17

If I remember correctly (its been a while) this change can be made in the registry under HKEY_USERS. You'll need to match the SID to the user you want to edit, then edit his profile settings under HKU/SID/Control Panel/Appearance. Change "NewCurrent" to one of the schemes listed in the folder called "Schemes" under "Appearance."

Have them log off then back on after you made the change. You may need to change 'current' and 'newcurrent.'


The background colour is in the registry key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Colours in the value "Background". You would have to open HKEY_USERS and find the GUID corresponding to your user then change the value there.



You could do this with Group Policy, but there isn't a built-in ADM template to do what you want. I presently lack the time to write this for you right now. If you only have a couple of users to do it with, just do it manually. If you're talking a large number of users, then pay somebody to write the ADM template for you. >smile<

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