Creating a custom Windows log-on screen has never been faster or simpler. Two free utilities let you do more than replace the boring Windows default start background with a picture of your pet hamsters, though you can do that, too.
Add system info to Windows' start-up sequence
In a post earlier this month, I described the beta version of the free TweakNow PowerPack 2009 utility that makes it easy to view system information, maintain Windows, and customize the OS' interface. As that post stated, I encountered a couple of rough edges in the beta version I looked at, but that's to be expected in a beta.
One TweakNow feature I took advantage of right away was the program's ability to add a "legal disclaimer" screen to Windows start-up. One practical application of this feature is to add information about the system to the screen's text box, which can make life a lot easier for you or for whoever has to maintain the machine.
Suppose you need to find out what type of memory your PC uses, what type of processor it runs, its current version of Windows, or even the toll-free support number of its vendor. It's not always easy to find all this information, which resides in various locations on your system. Utilities such as TweakNow can help you collect this type of data, but you'll still find yourself clicking around their various nooks and crannies to unearth what you need.
You could create an image containing this information and make it your Windows Desktop, but adding system information to a screen that appears early in the Windows start-up sequence not only saves you time rummaging around Windows settings, it also lets you get the info off a machine without having to fully load Windows. This is a capability a lot of IT staffers will likely appreciate, but anyone who maintains multiple PCs could find it a time-saver.
The system information I needed was available in various other TweakNow screens, but it was much easier for me to copy the main System Information screen, paste the data into the text box in the TweakNow Legal Notice dialog (click Windows Secret > User Accounts > Miscellaneous), and edit it there. I added the toll-free support number of the PC's vendor, just in case.
Place text in a custom welcome-screen image
If you're one of the many people who simply want Windows to load quickly, you won't be happy having to click through yet another screen before you can start your workday. Stardocks offers two free programs that let you create your own welcome screen, complete with any text you want ready access to.
LogonStudio Vista and LogonStudio XP can replace the default welcome/log-on screen with a more visually exciting image from a free online library, or you can create your own welcome image.
To test the program, I opened an image in Paint, added a text box containing information about the system, and then loaded the image using LogonStudio's Create and Upload options.
Frankly, I was more pleased with the presentation of the information in TweakNow's "Legal Disclaimer" screen than in LogonStudio's custom welcome screen. But if you want to avoid an extra start-up click and don't mind taking the time to create a custom welcome screen, it doesn't get much easier than using LogonStudio.