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How To Tame Microsoft Windows Vista's UAC

Are all those Windows Vista User Account Control warnings driving you nuts? Here are seven ways to make Vista's UAC less intrusive, while keeping legitimate security threats at bay.

Schedule A Task To Run As Admin

The single sneakiest way to pull an end run around UAC is to launch a task as admin through the Task Scheduler. Since you can't launch the Task Scheduler and add a task as admin without being admin (and without going through UAC) in the first place, this isn't as big a loophole as it sounds. The needed admin credentials are stored with the task itself.

Once set up, it can be used to either run individual tasks (safer) or as a general framework for launching administrative tasks (slightly less safe, but more convenient).

Here's an example for how to create an administrative command prompt in this fashion.

Task Manager can do an end-run around UAC. Make sure to check "Run with highest privileges."
(click for image gallery)

  1. Log in as an administrative user and start the Task Scheduler. One quick way to get there is by typing sched in the Start Menu, and then clicking on Task Scheduler when it appears. It's also available in the Control Panel, under "Schedule tasks" in the left-hand pane in the default view, or in Administrative Tools in the Classic view.

  2. Create a new task by clicking "Create Task" in the Actions pane. ("Create Basic Task" may not give you all the options you need.)

  3. In the General tab, set a name for the task. "Admin" works well. Any name will do as long as you can remember it easily; you're going to need it later. Select the "Run with highest privileges" checkbox.

  4. In the Actions tab, click "New" and select "Start a program." Supply the path to the program you want to run as admin. In this case it's cmd.exe. Click OK to add that action to the list.

  5. In the Conditions tab, uncheck all the options listed.

  6. In the Settings tab, uncheck all the options listed, except for "Allow task to be run on demand"; that option needs to be checked.

  7. Click OK to add the scheduled task.

  8. To invoke the task, create a shortcut that points to the following location:

    C:\Windows\System32\schtasks.exe /run /tn "<task name>"

    <task name> is the name you chose back in step 3. The quotes around the name are generally required. You can also set an icon that emphasizes that this is an admin operation; I prefer to use the yellow warning sign.

  9. Launch the shortcut. You should see a CMD window with the text Administrator: taskeng.exe in the title bar.

One of the little tweaks I did for an admin CMD window was to set the background color for the window to a dark red so that I could tell at a glance if I was typing in a regular or elevated command window. To do this, launch the admin CMD window, press Alt-Space to open the window's menu, and select Properties. Under "Colors," select the color scheme you want to use with the admin window, and click OK.

This same technique can be used to launch an elevated instance of Explorer as well. Use explorer /separate to launch Explorer in a separate instance, so that it'll elevate correctly -- otherwise, it'll just launch as another window in the same instance as the existing Explorer process, which is generally not elevated. (Be really careful with elevated Explorer instances, since you have the power to totally mess things up this way.)

Also, if you launch an elevated Explorer instance, keep in mind that you cannot copy or move files between elevated and non-elevated instances of Explorer. If you’re trying to copy stuff into or out of the Windows directory, for instance, launch the elevated Explorer as above, then press Ctrl-N to open up a second window from that instance so you can copy between them.

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