How to Access CMD From the Login Screen on Windows Vista

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Like previous versions of Microsoft Windows, Vista includes a small executable in the System32 directory called Cmd.exe. Running this program will bring up a DOS-imitating command prompt through which you can issue text commands to the operating system. Normally, you can't run Cmd until you've logged in to Vista, but there is a way around this. By replacing one of the three accessibility programs -- Narrator, Magnfier and High Contrast -- available to run at the Vista login screen with a copy of Cmd, you can trick the system into running Cmd without having to log in to a particular Vista account.

Obtain Permission

  • Click "Start," "Computer," then double-click "C:," "Windows" and "System32." The files in this directory will be organized alphabetically, so scroll to the "M" section in search of Magnify.

  • Right-click the file, and select "Properties" to bring up the Properties dialog box. Click the "Security" tab, then the "Advanced" button. In the "Change Owner To" box under the "Owner" tab, select "Administrators" and click "OK." In the "Permissions" tab, set the Administrator permission to "Full Control" and click "OK" until all the Properties boxes have disappeared.

  • Right-click the file again and select "Rename," then type "MagnifyOld.exe" and press "Enter." This saves the original program as MagnifyOld.exe -- if you ever want to restore it to the login screen, just delete the decoy you're about to put here and rename MagnifyOld back to Magnify.

Add and Use the Decoy

  • Scroll to the "C" section of System32 to find Cmd.exe. Right-click it and select "Copy," then right-click on your desktop and select "Paste."

  • Right-click the new copy of Cmd.exe on the desktop, select "Rename" and then type "Magnify.exe" and press "Enter."

  • Drag the newly renamed file back into the System32 window to copy it to that directory. When Vista goes looking for Magnify.exe, it will now find the Cmd executable.

  • Log out of your computer. At the login screen, click the "Ease of Access" button at the bottom of the screen. Check the box next to "Make Items on the Screen Larger (Magnifier)," then click "OK." The command prompt will appear.

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