Recently I’ve been playing around with some of the customization options in Windows 7, particularly enjoying themes, setting my own desktop backgrounds and alerts – the sort of thing I haven’t really had time for over the past few years. After a while, I noticed that a few things didn’t seem to be configurable.
Previous versions of Windows have allowed various customization options, from desktop backgrounds and startup chimes to altering logon screen messages and text.
However with Windows 7, these options have been restricted by Microsoft, leaving many users with a problem. If you’re responsible for applying company-specific branding to a network of computers or if you’re simply an enthusiast who enjoys tweaking the OS to suit a whim, you’ll have noticed that the Windows 7 logon message, the font and the colour of the text are apparently impossible to change.
Or are they?
Well, no, they’re not. As a matter of fact, making these changes is relatively easy.
Customize the Windows 7 Logon Message
Intended for Windows 7 32 bit or 64 bit computers with Service Pack 1 installed, the following can be done with or without User Account Control active. You will also need a copy of Resource Hacker, a free tool designed to enable you to modify, add, rename, delete and view resources in Windows EXE files.
While this is downloading, open C:\Windows\System32\en-US\ (note that non-English versions of Windows will have a different folder name, such as \es-ES\ for Spanish) and find winlogon.exe.mui.
Right-click this file and select Properties > Security > Advanced > Owner – in this window, click Edit and then under Change owner to, select your own logon name and click Apply. Click OK to proceed, and select OK to exit these windows and the original Properties box.
Once done, return to Properties > Security and select Edit. In the following box, click Add and search for your logon name; it should resolve as PCNAME\USERNAME. Select this, click OK to add and you will be returned to the Security tab. From here, click Advanced > Permissions > Change Permissions, and under Permission Entries:, select the newly added entry and click Edit. Select the Full Control checkbox in the Allow column, then click OK and Apply to exit back to the Properties box.
You should then copy the winlogon.exe.mui to a new location, preferably your desktop.
Next, install Resource Hacker and launch the software from the Windows Start menu by right-clicking and selecting Run as Administrator. Agree to the UAC notice and when the application has loaded open File > Open and in the Files of type box select All files (*.*). Browse to the desktop and load winlogon.exe.mui into Resource Hacker.
You will see that the tool has a similar interface to the Windows Registry Editor, so expand String Table > 63 > 1033 and in the right pane update the entries in quotes on lines 1002 and 1005 – this will be your new Windows 7 logon screen message!
Ensure the quotes remain in place, and click Compile Script and then File > Save to complete the process.
Close Resource Hacker and copy the winlogon.exe.mui file back to C:\Windows\System32\en-US\ (choosing Copy and Replace) and then open Start and type CMD, right-clicking the resulting command prompt icon and selecting Run as administrator. Type mcbuilder and tap Enter, and wait until the process is complete (the cursor will flash on a new line) before entering Exit to close the command prompt.
Restart Windows to complete the process and confirm your changes.
To undo this and restore the original message, simply start the process again, replacing your custom message with “Welcome”. Alternatively, delete winlogon.exe.mui and replace it with the winlogon.exe_original.mui file created by Resource Hacker, renaming it appropriately.
Change the Logon Screen Font
While changing the logon screen message might take a while, changing the font is much quicker.
Open Start and type regedit, tapping Enter to launch the utility and agreeing to any UAC prompts (before proceeding use File > Export to make a backup of your Windows Registry – useful if an error is made).
Expand the path HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\FontSubstitutes and find MS Shell Dlg in the right pane – right click on this and select Modify. In the resulting box, input the name of the font you wish to use (check C:\Windows\Fonts for a list of currently installed choices), and repeat for the entry MS Shell Dlg 2 (note that the default option is Tahoma).
Once this is done, close the Windows registry and restart your computer to apply the changes (note that you can also logoff and logon, although locking your computer will not display the changes).
The Text Is Too Light/Dark! Can I Change the Colour?
Changing the colour of the Windows logon screen font isn’t possible but you can change the weight of the text – that is, how prominent it appears in front of your chosen background.
To do this, return to the Windows Registry Editor and expand the path HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Authentication\LogonUI; in the right pane right-click and select New > DWORD, naming it ButtonSet.
Once this is done, double click to edit the value, clicking OK when you’re done. You have a choice of the following:
0 – This gives lighter text shadows, darker buttons and is the default choice.
1 – Suitable for lighter backgrounds, this option offers darker text shadows and lighter buttons.
2 – Intended for a darker background, text shadows are removed and buttons are opaque.
When your choice is made, close Registry Editor and restart Windows to check the results!
Although third party software and changes to the Windows Registry are required to make these customizations, the results can be impressive, especially when combined with a custom logon screen background.
Although applying a new logon screen message might appear a long and drawn out process it can genuinely be done in just a couple of minutes. Similarly, changing the Windows 7 logon screen font and tone can be completed in just a few seconds, particularly if you already know which font you want to use – providing it is installed!