Set up the screen saver

When users of a Windows NT computer leave their workstation, they should lock the workstation (CTRL-ALT-DELETE), or log off whenever they are going to be away for a prolonged period of time. We all know that, but almost no one does it. These actions require user input, and people just forget to do them.

The solution is some kind of automatic procedure that kicks in once the computer is idle. One such process that does not require user input and can be automatically activated is the

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screen saver.

To activate the screen saver, right-click on the desktop and select Properties from the dropdown menu. Then click on the screen saver tab, and pick a screen saver. Check the Password protected check box, and then set the activation time on the drop-down box. Click OK.

But there's a catch. Once you've enabled the screensaver, the default grace period settings cause a delay, and during that delay the screen saver can be activated but not protected. This avoids the annoyance of having to enter a password just because you didn't touch the keyboard during a phone call, but it can leave out a welcome mat for unwanted access to the workstation by someone determined to get in. By default, the grace period is five seconds. To allow the screen saver to activate more quickly, perform the following steps:

  • Run Regedit


  • Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon.


  • Create a new DWORD Value called ScreenSaverGracePeriod (If already present you can modify this value).


  • Double-click on the new value, then set the "Value data" to the number of seconds in which you want the screen saver to be activated, click OK.


  • Restart the machine for the change to take effect.


If for some reason you want the grace period to be longer, you can do that too, but it leaves a welcome mat of longer duration.

Adesh Rampat has 10 years experience with network and IT administration. He is a member of the Association Of Internet Professionals, the Institute For Network Professionals, and the International Webmasters Association. He has also lectured extensively on a variety of topics.


This was first published in November 2002

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