The Ease of Access button on the Windows 10 lock/login screen (that icon similar to a clock next to the power button) can be vital to people with hearing or sight difficulties.
If you’re not one of these people, however, you may not even know this button exists, so why not reappropriate it and turn it into something useful for yourself? We’ll show you how to make various apps available from the Windows login screen – whether it’s writing software, the command prompt (if you’re happy circumventing Windows Defender security), or Notepad so that you can quickly jot things down without having to log in.
Note: this will involve making a few tweaks to your registry. It’s not too complicated, but you should always make a backup of your registry before making any changes here.
With that in mind, let’s begin.
First, open the Registry Editor (Win + R then enter
In the bar at the top of the registry editor, enter the following directory:
Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Image File Execution Options
In the pane on the left, right-click the folder/key “Image File Execution Options,” then select “New -> Key.” Right-click the “New Key #1” folder, and rename it “utilman.exe.”
In the new utilman folder, right-click in the pane on the right, select “New -> String Value” and call it “Debugger.”
Next, right-click Debugger, click Modify, then enter the full directory of the app or program you want to run straight from the login screen. If you’re in doubt about the location of your app, open Windows Explorer, and find the exact location of the app. (You can search for it in the Search bar at the top right of Windows Explorer.)
Once you’ve located it, click an empty spot in the address bar across the top of Windows Explorer, and it will turn into a proper directory location.
Right-click, click Copy, then paste it into the “Edit String” box for the Debugger value in the registry editor. To create a shortcut to Notepad on the lock screen, the value date box should say “C:\Windows\System32\notepad.exe.”
Click OK after entering the value data. In the case of Notepad, you may get an error message that it can’t access the ‘Desktop’ folder, but you can still take notes and save them on the hard drive.
Note that not every app will work using this trick. Microsoft Store apps are a bit of a nightmare because they don’t open via typical executable files, so things like Sticky Notes and OneNote are out of the picture.
It also used to be the case that you could open an elevated command prompt (c:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe) from the login screen which essentially lets you open most apps on your PC. Windows Defender is now wise to this, however, presenting it as a security. If you try to set the command prompt to open on the lock screen, you’ll be blocked from doing it. You can work around this by disabling Windows Defender, which we only recommend doing if you have another antivirus in place.
You can now takes notes from your Windows lock screen or do a whole bunch of other things if you’re prepared to work around Windows Defender’s security warnings. Enjoy the newfound flexibility of the lock screen, but be careful not to mess around with that registry too much.
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