Regarding Windows 2008/R2: I've changed my desk-top color to red. I've played with the "appearance settings", but none of them are tolerable to the eye. Is there something I else I can do to make production look different? Obviously, I don't want to run something dangerous when on Prod when I think that I'm on test or QA.

Ideas: 1) Anything in the task bar? 2) What about a small pop-up program that always comes to the foreground? Any such free program exist?

  • Don't forget to colorize the command prompt too, Windows+R with the wrong focus, format d: and you're done :)) Aug 23 '12 at 22:56

BGInfo from Sysinternals is a free program that's very common in enterprise environments. Configured to run at user logon, it can not only make the desktop look aesthetically unique, but can also display useful information about the server.

Also, you could consider pushing, via GPO, custom Powershell profiles and Cmd.exe settings that change their colors from the defaults on all production as well.

Just a couple ideas.

Edit: Beaten by a second. -_-

  • Haha, the ever competitive world of ServerFault, where seconds count! :P For what it's worth I liked your explanation better.
    – Univ426
    Aug 23 '12 at 13:45
  • +1 - I use BGInfo and a startup script to deploy it to servers and run it against the HKEY_USERS\.Default profile. On Windows Server 2003 machines that causes the logon screen to display the BGInfo details. (I'm sad this is gone from W2K8 and newer OS's.) I force the user wallpaper to the BGInfo wallpaper using a custom administrative template and loopback policy processing to force it irrespective of the user's personal policy settings. Aug 23 '12 at 21:29
  • +1 Yup, this is exactly what I've always done too. I typically use an orange color theme for the CLI and an orange-tinted background with "PRODUCTION" plastered all over the place for production systems, on account of not wanting my eyes to bleed fro using red everywhere, but anything that's hard to miss to distinguish it from environments you can screw up in works well. Aug 24 '12 at 0:41
  • @RyanRies please see my new answer Dec 9 '13 at 15:59
  • +1 for BGInfo. It's prevented me from fat-fingering the wrong machine more than once. Feb 26 '14 at 22:44

Some great ideas I've seen -

1.) Stick a long, deep red bar across the top and bottom of the background image. I've found this to be unobtrusive and pretty helpful.

2.) Some darker red text on the default blue background also looks pretty good without hurting the eyes.

3.) You might take a look at BGInfo. It's a useful utility that prints various data about the server over the background


  • Red color is good enough for deskop, but the problem with that is I don't usually see the desktop. But I usually have big windows open and I need the utilities that I use full screen to do my work. I need something to re-color over sit on top of my full-screen utilities. Aug 23 '12 at 16:33
  • I usually keep QA and PROD both open on two different RDPs. I use SQL, Biztalk Admin, Total Commander, and 3 or 4 other programs, all open at once. Aug 23 '12 at 16:35
  • please see my new answer Dec 9 '13 at 16:00

I think I have found something that meets my needs, and can be done without 1) downloading third party programs, 2) registry hacks, 3) compiling C++ code.

1) Right-click desk-top, then select "Personalize". [If this option does not appear, try "Start" then "Color" then enter, then pick the item "Change Color Scheme".] 2) I suggest if you are using Windows Standard, then switch to Windows Classic. Leave one the way it was, then make your changes on "Windows Classic". I'm still not sure how to add a whole new "color scheme". 3) Click the Advanced button. 4) In the Item select list, I change two items to red: a) Active Title Bar b) Active Windows Border

enter image description here

As mentioned in my original question, I think changing the desktop itself is totally inadequate. There needs to be something unique on the open screen. I keep RDP windows open for DEV, QA, TRAIN, and PROD most all day. When I click on one, I rarely see the desktop, but only the active Window, which for me, is usually SQL Studio (SSMS) or BizTalk Admin Console.

  • Very simple yet great idea! +1 for that
    – Jason
    Dec 2 '13 at 15:28

I'm not sure how the Windows 2008 taskbar icons can be resized. Windows 7 lets you choose 'Small icons' in the taskbar properties. (Taskbar and Start Menu Properties, Taskbar tab, check Use small icons).

Or change the size for the quicklaunch bar icons.

Would that be distinctive enough for you?

  • Best answer yet, I don't know why everybody above is so stuck on the desktop which I specifically said was not my issue. Even auto-hiding the task bar is a good idea. But I don't see "small icons" on Win 2008/R2. Aug 24 '12 at 15:27

I actually have an extremely useful method for handling these kind of issues, opened a while ago looking for differentiating between multiple user accounts on the same server See Differentiating between multiple runas account windows. I had since made a minor tweak and now I see exactly who I'm running under and on what system. Very handy and it works for the vast majority of window types.

#Include <Array.au3>
#include <WinAPIEx.au3>
While ( True ) 
    Sleep( 100 )
    Local $PID = 0
        $handle = WinGetHandle("[ACTIVE]", "") 
        $iPID = WinGetProcess($handle)
    Until $iPID > 0
    Local $aUser = _WinAPI_GetProcessUser($PID)
    $title = WinGetTitle ( $handle )
    $result = StringInStr($title, "Owned By")

    If ( $Result == 0 ) Then
        WinSetTitle($handle, "", $title & " - Owned By " & $UserName & " on " & @ComputerName )
        $title = WinGetTitle ( $handle )

This can be fired off from a scheduled task, desktop icon, etc.

Note - it also requires a custom autoit library WinAPIEx.au3 file to to be compiled. Also note that this needs to execute with admin level rights to be able to render changes to anything that is launched as an admin.

  • I'm interested! What exactly does it change? Does it change the title bar of the currently active window, all windows? Nov 25 '13 at 21:46
  • @nealwalters it can do either. I have it set to do the in focus window. It sticks when you minimize though. Nov 25 '13 at 22:45
  • Just checking... Is this a console app, compiled to .exe? Nov 27 '13 at 20:34
  • @NealWalters I use the standad compile options, not console. Tend to comple 32 bit so I can use the samebinary on a couple of my older server 2003 hosts. Nov 28 '13 at 2:51

You could also use a login message that warns the user that they are on a production system.

  • No good, I stay logged on all day, and constantly bounce between the systems. Aug 24 '12 at 15:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.