Vista/Win7 Solution: Skip the Switch User screen

So I’ve been happily using Windows 7 for a couple years (since the beta), but just finally moved my family into it, and discovered a new issue in the process:

Like XP, the “Win+L” key combination locks your profile so the next person won’t “be you.” But instead of the main Welcome screen with the list of accounts, you get the Switch User screen, with a button to take you to the real Welcome screen. This a confusing extra step when you’re the next guy just looking to login.

I did some research, and it looks like a LOT of folks have wondered how to skip the Switch User screen, but without luck.

Not sure, but I may be the first with a decent solution. The ingredients are tsdiscon.exe (which does the “Switch User”), and Task Scheduler (which hooks it up to the Win+L combination), both of which are built into Windows. Here’s how:

  1. Click Start, type taskschd.msc, enter. Confirm any UAC prompts you get, and Task Scheduler will open.
  2. In the Action menu, click Create Task.
  3. In the Create Task dialog > General tab, type a meaningful Name like “Lock » Switch User”
  4. In the Security options section, click the “Change User or Group” button, type _Users_ in the dialog and click OK.
  5. On the Triggers tab, click the “New…” button. In the New Trigger dialog > “Begin the task” list, choose “On workstation lock” and click OK. This takes you back to the Create Task dialog.
  6. In the Actions tab, click the “New…” button. In the New Action dialog > “Program/script” field, type tsdiscon.exe and click OK. This takes you back to the Create Task dialog.
  7. Click OK again and enter the password for the administrative account it offers.
  8. Test it! Press Win+L and you should see the Switch User screen for a moment, then the main Welcome screen.

2011-01-17 UPDATE:  As I was setting up this tweak on a new system, I noticed Windows 7 HOME doesn’t include tsdiscon.exe. It’s easy enough to copy from a Win7 Pro machine (from/to %windir%\System32), and then works as I described.

2011-02-10 UPDATE:  It looks like I was on the same track as Duncan Smart.  He didn’t make automate it with Task Scheduler, but he did write a downloadable substitute for tsdiscon.exe (handy if you have no access to a Windows PRO machine.)

Standing Desk, day 6

Previously, on Standing Desk: Day 1 and Day 2

Well I’m over a week into my experiment.  Here’s what I know:

  • Standing all day definitely gets easier.  My feet aren’t really sore anymore, or maybe I’m just used to it.
  • BUT, a bad night’s sleep is a lot more noticeable.  I had a couple rough nights, and standing around really made me want to crawl back into bed (more than a chair would).
  • I’m not noticing any general energy improvements yet.
  • But I do feel generally more Ready and Present while I’m working.  37 Signals’ Jamis says it better:
    My attention span improved, too. I noticed an immediate increase in my ability to focus on a problem for longer, and with greater clarity. When I was blocked by some problem, I was able to just walk away from the desk, whereas before the effort of getting up from my chair often made me prefer to just sit and stew in my frustration.

  • I’m getting used to it. Walking up to my desk doesn’t seem unusual anymore. Nor does the various fidgeting, dancing, pacing it allows. I didn’t even think about it today until I was walking out to my car.

So I think it’s a good thing and I want to continue.  My next thought is about getting a real standup desk (“real” as in no cardboard boxes required).  Apparently, IKEA’s Jerker is Undisputed King of Standup desks.  It does look great, but I can’t seem to find it.  More news as it happens…

Standing Desk, day 1

Today I took a plunge with a standing desk, for a few reasons.


Health
I often sit all day long, and rarely make the time to exercise.  Humans weren’t made to sit.  I think this sums it well:

Sitting is one of the most passive things you can do. You burn more energy by chewing gum or fidgeting than you do sitting still in a chair. Compared to sitting, standing in one place is hard work. To stand, you have to tense your leg muscles, and engage the muscles of your back and shoulders; while standing, you often shift from leg to leg. All of this burns energy.

For many people, weight gain is a matter of slow creep — two pounds this year, three pounds next year. You can gain this much if, each day, you eat just 30 calories more than you burn. Thirty calories is hardly anything — it’s a couple of mouthfuls of banana, or a few potato chips. Thus, a little more time on your feet today and tomorrow can easily make the difference between remaining lean and getting fat.

Olivia Judson in the New York Times

Productivity
Not that productivity is what humans were made for either, but if I’m taking time away from my family and Life to go work, I should use that time well.  Too often my train of thought is “I’m sitting in front of a computer, now what can I do with it?”  rather than “For what purpose am I standing in front of this computer?”

Peer Pressure
A friend and
several bloggers I respect have made the switch, and had good things to say.  I’m a big fan of reviews and anecdotal evidence.  :7

…So this morning I put some cardboard boxes under my keyboard, mouse, and monitors.  (It’s ugly, but a cheap way to try before I buy a real standing desk.)

Some things I’ve already noticed:

  • It’s hard.  Everyone says the first 2 days are brutal.  Yup!  They also say around day 3 it gets easy and then it starts paying back with better energy.  Here’s hoping…
  • With the right tunes, I catch myself dancing!  Yes, I’m sure you’d like to see that.  I checked and am relieved that google says I’m not crazy (or not alone, anyway).
  • Moment-to-moment priorities are easier.  For a couple years I’ve had a sign reminding me to “Decide Standing” when I pick my next tasks.  The opposite is true now – I can now take a 2-minute sitting break to pick a task.  This comes much more naturally!

Wish me luck.