Much like Genie from Aladdin, Group Policy Admins have unlimited power. Today, we are going to extend that power just a bit by configuring a custom default logon screensaver. This is the screensaver that appears when no user is logged into the computer. This guide will cover the GPO creation and how you can safely let your staff manage this system.
Why should I bother with a default logon screensaver?
Blue Genie Answer: The screensaver can rotate through pictures; allowing you to share useful information with your staff. This can effectively turn your computers into a distributed announcement system for free.
Red Genie Answer: Because the screensaver can rotate through pictures, you can partner up with local businesses and sell advertisements. You can then offer staff members an opt-out option for a small yearly subscription! Absolute genius!
As a practical example, our media specialists highlight new books that are available for checkout. This screensaver appears on the media center computers and encourages students to check out these books (an example is below).
Setting up the Screensaver Share
First, you will need a share that allows domain computers to read/execute. We use our Application Deployment share for our default logon screensaver files. Next, get your hands on ssmypics.scr. This is the “My Pictures” screensaver that can be found in C:\Windows\System32 on any Windows XP machine. If you can’t get your hands on an XP machine, here is a zip file containing the screensaver: ssmypics
Copy this screensaver to the network share. Then create a sub-folder named Pictures. If you will be delegating the announcement, give those users (or a group they belong to) the ability to modify this folder.
Create the File Preferences
In the GPMC, create a new a GPO named Default Logon Screensaver. Edit it and navigate to Computer Configuration/Preferences/Windows Settings/Files/. Create a new file preference that copies ssmypics.scr from your network share to C:\Windows\System32\. Set the Preference Action to Create.
Create a second file preference that copies the contents from the Pictures sub-folder to a local folder. In my GPO, the files are copied from the share to C:\ProgramData\ScreenSaver\. Set this Preference Action to Create as well.
Create the Registry Preferences
While still under Computer Configuration, select Registry and create the following six registry preferences. All will be created under HKEY_USERS. The list below is formated as: KEY PATH – VALUE NAME – VALUE TYPE – VALUE DATA
- .DEFAULT\Control Panel\Desktop ScreenSaveActive REG_SZ 1
- .DEFAULT\Control Panel\Desktop ScreenSaveisSecure REG_SZ 0
- .DEFAULT\Control Panel\Desktop ScreenSaveTimeOut REG_SZ 90
- .DEFAULT\Control Panel\Desktop SCRNSAVE.EXE REG_SZ C:\Windows\System32\ssmypics.scr
- S-1-5-19\Control Panel\Screen Saver.Slideshow ImageDirectory REG_SZ C:\ProgramData\ScreenSaver
- S-1-5-19\Control Panel\Screen Saver.Slideshow ChangeInterval REG_DWORD 15000
Here are some of the values that you might want to adjust:
- ScreenSaveTimeOut: The time (in seconds) until the screensaver becomes active. In the example above, it is 90 seconds.
- ImageDirectory: The location of the locally copied screensaver pictures
- ChangeInterval: The time between each picture change in the logon screensaver.
The only thing left to do is to link the GPO and test it out! You will need to populate the pictures sub-folder if you haven’t. After rebooting a machine (or running a GPUpdate), you should see your logon screensaver activate.
If you plan to use this as a distributed announcement system, you can easily generate the screensaver pictures in PowerPoint. Just save the Powerpoint as a .JPG into your pictures folder. Each slide in the PowerPoint will be saved as a picture.
If your logon screensaver doesn’t activate after the ScreenSaveTimeOut value has expired, adjust that time to a low value (such as 5 seconds). This will assist in troubleshooting.
Next, check the Application Log in Event Viewer for any Group Policy Preferences errors. If you see any Preference errors, check out this troubleshooting guide. Finally, ensure that the ssmypics.scr exists in System32 and that your local pictures actually exist. If you still have issues after this, just leave a comment below.