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.
Good way of telling, and good article to get data regarding my presentation focus, which i am going to deliver
I have deleted the old files from the shared and set the preference to replace the files already in the folder C:\ProgramData\Screensaver\
But it only ever adds new files but never removes older files that are not longer in the share
You can add a delete preference and have it process first. This will clear out the old files.
Hi James, I’ve been following your guide and want to say thanks for all the great tips. Your making all of us look good. My question is we populate the users drive with jpg’s for the current announcement, what happens to those jpg’s when we change the announcement? Are they deleted or does the file count in the users location continue to grow?
Thank you! I am glad these guides are helping you so much! If you name the new pictures with the same name, the old pictures will be overwritten. – Joseph
Thanks Joseph, would that take the default location of images from the previous registry settings or would that be something different?
You would want to change the registry settings to User Configuration preferences. Then change the hive to Current User.
I’ve followed this through and the ssmypics.scr copies fine along with the jpg’s to the c:\programdata\screensaver folder.
My problem is the registry keys that are going into the S-1-5-19\Control Panel\Screen Saver.Slideshow location are not copied to the current user that logs in, the screensaver still defaults to use their My Pictures folder.
Hi James – This guide was written for the default logon profile (the profile that appears when you see a logon screen). These steps will let you set a screensaver for the computer and it will appear when no user is logged on. If you are wanting to set the screensaver for a standard user, you will need to set this administrative template setting:
User Configuration\Administrative Templates\Control Panel\Personalization\Force Specific Screen Saver
You can then configure the screensaver for your users. Let me know if you have any issues!