Hiding Windows

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This Wikipage explains how to install software or modify your computer's settings. Build Your Own Arcade Controls Wiki recommends reading the manuals or "readme" files of the software. If you are changing settings on your computer make sure you understand what you are doing. In doubt let a more experienced user execute the steps for you.


Please note that the contents of this website is a collection of advise and experience of many hobbyists. None of the individual contributors or operators of this website can take any responsibility for the results or consequences of any the information presented on this web site.

Contents

Introduction

To create the illusion that your home arcade machine is a 'real' arcade machine, it would be nice to be able to hide the familiar Windows PC look and feel. Nobody wants to see the Windows logo when your cabinet is turned on; it's kind of like being caught with your pants down. There are several ways of achieving this, let's have a look at your options...

note: this article deals with hiding various parts of the operating system when the computer is in start-up phase. To hide the windows user interface and select games take a look at the front-end software article.

Instant Sheller

Before following this guide consider trying Instant Sheller by Tom Speirs to automate the process of hiding cursors, boot screen, startup/login/shutdown screens, setting auto login and hiding the desktop.

Some modern BIOSes support changing the logo that is the very first thing displayed when your computer turns on. It should be noted that there’s not too much to be gained from doing this as most computers are so fast that the image is only momentarily flashed and your display device normally won’t have got up to operating specifications before the BIOS screen disappears. If yours can be changed, there will be an utility to do this on the motherboard manufacturer’s website.

Some (but not all) ASUS brand motherboards support this feature. Support for this feature in other brands is unknown.

OS windows icon.gif Hiding Windows XP

Replacing Your Boot Screen

The boot screen is the Windows XP logo on a black background with a little blue progress bar underneath it. Before making any changes, be sure to create a System Restore point before attempting these methods. While not a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card, it can save you from yourself. This way, in case something goes wrong, restarting your computer, pressing and holding F8 until the Operating System menu appears and selecting “Last Known Good Configuration” should get you back to your previous state in most cases.

You can modify your boot screen in these ways:

BootSkin

This product inserts a driver file into the XP startup sequence that displays an image instead of actually loading a driver.
Pros:
  • It does not patch or access any operating system files.
  • If something goes wrong, it is simple to fix.
  • You can customize both the screen and the progress bar.
Cons:
  • Relies on BIOS and driver manufacturers strictly obeying certain guidelines.
  • If the system is incompatible, you'll likely get a "blue screen of death".


BootXP

This alters resources and some other bits in a file called “ntoskrnl.exe”.
Pros:
  • You can customize both the screen and the progress bar.
Cons:
  • If something goes wrong, you will need an original Windows XP CD to put it right and knowledge of how to use the recovery console.
  • It accesses and patches a critical operating system file.
  • You get really ugly and slow nag screens every time you want to change your boot screen if you don’t pay for it.


Slimm Boot-Logo / The Microsoft Way

There is an undocumented switch in Microsoft Windows XP’s operating system settings file. Slimm Boot-Logo simply flicks the switch.
  • You can also set this switch manually. Go to My Computer >Properties >Advanced >Startup and Recovery >Settings. Select “Edit startup options file”. Add “ /bootlogo /noguiboot” to your default operating system (there must be a space between each switch) and add a 16-color 640 x 480 pixel BMP file called "boot.bmp” to your Windows directory.
Pros:
  • Simple, safe, simply asks the operating system to use a custom boot screen.
  • No illegal or unrecommended patching of any file.
  • Least chance of anything going wrong (your changed settings can be checked before you reboot. After performing the change, go to My Computer >Properties >Advanced >Startup and Recovery >Settings. If you still have “Microsoft Windows XP” in the combo box at the top, everything should work fine next time you boot.
Cons:
  • No progress bar on custom boot screen.
  • Have to convert your image to 640 x 480 pixels and 16 colors yourself.
  • If it goes wrong you will need an original Windows XP CD to put it right.

Making Your Own Bootskin for XP using Bootskin_Free

This may work for other "skinning" softwares but I have only used Bootskin.
This is a description of how to make your own Bootskin for win XP.

The bootskin is composed of 3 parts. The main image, the progress bar,
and a little script (for lack of a beter term) to tie the two together.
These are then placed into a folder and zipped.

  • Start by making a folder for your bootskin.
  • Rename it to Whateveryoulike.bootskin

I use Photoshop to make my images, but you can use any program that will allow you to change color modes and save a profile of an indexed color palet.

  • Main Picture is 640 x 480 (72dpi)
  • Make it "Indexed color" - 16 Colors
  • Save color loader table (Image->Modes->Color table->Save)
  • Save as BMP - 4 bit - Imagename_Bootskin.bmp (Imagename is whatever you want it to be called)
  • Make sure that you save this in your new bootskin folder.
  • Progress bar is 22 x 9 (72dpi)
  • Index color - load color table from BKG image (Image->Modes->Color table->load)
  • Save as bmp - 4 bit - Imagename_Progress.bmp (imagename is whatever you want it to be called)
  • Save this in your bootskin folder.

Next you will need to open notepad and make a description for the bootskin program to know how to put your bootskin together.
Here is a description of what needs to be inside.

[BOOTSKIN] = what it is
Type = (I do not know what this is for. When I read about this it said to use 0 and it works)
Name = title of Bootskin (inside quotes)
Author = You (inside quotes)
Description = Description (inside quotes)
Progressbar = the name of the progress bar file +.bpm
Progressbarx (y)= X & Y Coordinates (in pixles) for where the progress bar is on the screen
Progressbarwidth = How wide (in pixles) do you want your progress bar to be.
Screen = The name main image + .bmp


Here is the last one that I did. You can use it to get yourself on track.
Open notepad and copy - paste the script below.

[BootSkin]
Type= 0
Name = "Blackout"
Author = "MYX"
Description = "Blackout Theme based skin"
ProgressBar= BO_Progress.bmp
ProgressBarX = 140
ProgressBarY = 400
ProgressBarWidth = 360
Screen= Blackout_Bootskin.bmp


Once you have finished filling out your tweaks, save it as bootskin.ini
You will have to type the .ini.
This changes it from a txt document into a configuration document.

Make sure all 3 parts are in your Your.bootskin folder.
Then you have to zip the folder.

  • Right click on the folder.
  • When the menu comes up select send to -> Compressed (zipped) Folder

Now that your bootskin is zipped you can put it into the bootskin program.
In Bootskin, I have found that when I navigate to where the folder is many times the bootskin folder does not show up. In the name box, if you start to type the name of the bootskin folder, it will appear and then you can select it. Not sure why this is.

Clear as mud? Good.


A Hardware Solution For Hiding BIOS & Boot Screens

This may be set-up dependant thus it may or may not work for your setup. In the first step, a cheap or even free part is recommended. This will make testing this method easier on the wallet.
  1. You must be using an AGP video card in your PC. Add a PCI video card to your system (use the cheapest model you can find - it may not even have to work, so you may be able to find a free card!)
  2. Go into the BIOS setup screen of your PC, and find the "Video Card" setting. Change it to "PCI" instead of AGP.
  3. Reboot your PC
The BIOS messages and boot screen should now be output only to the PCI card. The monitor, still plugged into the AGP card, should stay blank until Windows starts. If any BIOS changes are needed, you'll have to plug the monitor into the PCI card, so ensure your PC's BIOS settings are configured prior to attempting this step.

Replacing Explorer With Your FE In XP

To almost completely bypass Windows and its trimmings, you may want to set up your front end as a shell.

Note: To do this automagically during startup in XP your computer may be a part of a workgroup, but it CAN'T be part of a domain.

Here is the process to follow in order to set up your front end as a shell:


  • You must have at least 2 users with admin privileges
  • Open the user that will be auto logged in to the account that will be running your front end as a shell. This user should have admin rights.
  • Set XP to automate the login process.
    1. Click start >run >type
      control userpasswords2
    2. Deselect the Users must enter a username and password... checkbox.
    3. Click Apply
    4. Enter the user & pass you want to login with & click OK
    5. Click OK again
  • Configure your front end... this is not a trial run, so make sure it's the way you want it. You can always get the explorer back, but it will take a minute or two to do so.
  • Open regedit and find
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\IniFileMapping\system.ini\boot
  • Find a string entry called Shell.
  • Change the first 3 letters (which should read SYS) to USR. The path after USR will look different for your system, but it should appear similar to this: USR:BLAH\BLAH\BLAH. This tells windows to ignore the system’s shell values and load up a shell value on a user by user basis. If you don’t do this it will never even look for the shell value in the current user key, meaning the next part won’t ever be seen.
  • Now (still in regedit) open these registry folders as follows:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon
  • If you can't find Shell create a string entry and name it Shell.
  • Set the string entry to the name and directory location of your front end, for example
    C:\arcade\mamewah.exe
    YOURS may be different, use YOUR OWN path to the exe!
  • Log out as the auto-login user and log back in as another user with administrative rights. (You DID create 2 accounts with adminstrative priveledges as was suggested, right? )
  • If you want to limit the access of the auto log-in user set the auto-login user to a standard user


What to do if you removed the taskbar and want it back

Should you ever care to go back to the way things were, after firing up your front end, simply hit ctrl alt del and run regedit again, and delete the shell entry you created. POOF! Everything’s back to “normal” again!


If you just want the taskbar back temporarily then do the following:

  1. Exit your front end and go back to your taskbar-less desktop.
  2. Press Ctrl+Alt+Delete.
  3. In Windows XP the task manager appears. On Windows 2000 you need to press the "Task Manager" button as an extra step.
  4. Click on the "New Task" button.
  5. At the "Create New Task" window type "explorer" and hit OK.


Launching Programs/Utilities in the background

If you set your front end as a shell you may notice that other programs you had set to startup on Boot are no longer loading in the background.

  • XYNTService will allow you to continue to load any programs that don't already support launching as a System Service.

Alternate Method Without Messing With The Registry

You can achieve a similar affect as the above (although not as "complete", and may or may not be acceptable to you) with the following steps:

  1. Put a shortcut to your FE's .exe file in “Startup” folder.
  2. Hide all windows desktop icons. You will need to download and install the Microsoft PowerToy TweakUI and change the Desktop settings.
  3. Set desktop to black or use a wallpaper image of your choice
  4. Auto hide task bar.

Returning to Explorer once FE Quits

  • If you would like the Explorer shell to start up after you quit your frontend, this is possible. Here is how to do it using Mamewah as an example. Keep in mind, that this is only possible if the frontend that you use supports launching an application on exit. Also, the location of the option to do this won't be in the same place everytime, Mamewah is just used as an example.
  1. Go to your Mamewah folder and edit your mamewah.ini file
  2. Near the bottom of the list of options is app_to_run_on_exit enter explorer.exe next to it and save the file.

Now, everytime you quit Mamewah, it will exit back to the Explorer shell.

Edit: From http://forum.arcadecontrols.com/index.php?PHPSESSID=22da901a92d294b12067b40fa135b06e&topic=53467.40 posted there by Capthowdy


Edit your mamewah\ctrlr\default.ini


EXIT_WITH_CHOICE

EXIT_TO_WINDOWS "DIK_ESCAPE"

EXIT_AND_RUN_APP

EXIT_AND_REBOOT

EXIT_AND_SHUTDOWN


guess where "DIK_ESCAPE" needs to be! That's right...make it look like this:

EXIT_WITH_CHOICE

EXIT_TO_WINDOWS

EXIT_AND_RUN_APP "DIK_ESCAPE"

EXIT_AND_REBOOT

EXIT_AND_SHUTDOWN

Getting rid of the "Loading settings" Popup screens

  • The following will hide the dialog box that appears that the beggining of Windows startup informing you that the system is "Loading Settings".

To do this,follow these steps:

  1. Go to, Start Menu -> Run and enter regedit
  2. Navigate to entry:
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE>Software>Microsoft>Windows>CurrentVersion>Policies>System
  3. If there is an entry for "DisableStatusMessages" set it to 1 (the digit one)
  • If there is no entry, right-mouse click the "System" word, and select New->DWORD value, and enter "DisableStatusMessages", right-mouse to edit the value of it, and enter 1 (the digit one).

Hiding The Mouse Pointer While Logging Into Windows

  • After having everything else stripped out of Windows, seeing the cursor briefly while Windows boots up is a real experience killer. Here is how to get rid of it! Please make sure you read this thoroughly before you start, as you might get stuck with an invisible pointer, and that won't be fun to get back to normal!
  1. Download this version of TweakUI, it has a special option that we are going to need. http://www.systemsmedic.com/DownloadFiles/TweakUIXP.exe (dead link -- company closed October, 2007)
  2. Once this is installed, go to Control Panel>Mouse>Pointers and change all of your cursors to a cursor file that is invisible, and save this to a scheme of your choice, Ex. "Mame cursors". See TIP at the bottom for some extra info on the cursor.
  3. Save the scheme, but don't apply it yet, as it will be hard to navigate Windows with an invisible pointer.
  4. The last thing to do is to apply the settings to make the cursors invisible. Go back to the cursor screen in the Windows Control Panel, load your scheme and hit apply. It'll be hard, if not impossible to see your cursor, depending on which type of cursor you made, which is why this is the last step. Squint your way into your start menu and open TweakUI. If you can't see the cursor, just hit the Windows key on your keyboard to bring up the start menu. (If your keyboard doesn't have a "Windows key", you can alternatively get the start menu by pressing Ctrl + Esc.) Go to the LOGON option, and somewhere there is the option to copy your wall paper etc. across to the Logon Screen. Check that, and hit apply or press Alt+A.
  • If you have made an invisible cursor and you can't seem to get around Windows once you exit your FE, you can just log out of the current user and log into the computer as an administrator and all those settings should be untouched. To do this without a mouse, just hit Win+L and it will bring up the login menu (Win is the windows key on the keyboard, right between Ctrl and Alt. Another useful hotkey is Win+R which brings up the Run menu.

TIP: When you download Mamewah, the zip contains an invisible cursor, so you can use that one if you'd like. Also, you can make a cursor that is just a dot, so that it is almost invisible but it can be used to navigate if needed.


Alternate Change Cursor Method (Without TweakUI)

NOTE: This method was tested to work with Windows 2000 and Windows XP.

1. Open up regedit.exe

2. Go to the following key:

   HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Cursors

3. Here you can change the assigned mouse cursor files for your the current user. You can change them all but in my experience the following three do the job for cursor concealment:

  • "AppStarting"
  • "Arrow"
  • "Wait"

NOTE: At this point it is a good idea to backup this branch in case you change your mind.

4. Change the values you wish to replace with the name of the cursor you wish to have instead. Write it using a FULL PATH, for example: "c:\temp\my_special_cursor.cur"

Make sure what you writing is correct and prefer changing spaces to something else if your cursor file is using them.

5. Close regedit.exe and reboot your machine.


Changing the Cursor Shape During the Logon Screen

For this you need to change the assigned cursor values for the ".DEFAULT" user account. The registry key is:

   HKEY_USERS\.DEFAULT\Control Panel\Cursors

If the "Cursors" key does not exist then create it yourself. At the "(Default)" value type a title for the cursor scheme (e.g. "My Special Cursors"). Create REG_EXPAND_SZ entries for the cursor types you wish to change. Use the values mentioned in the previous section as a guide. Reboot your machine for changes to take effect.

Welcome/Startup/Shutdown/Background Color

  • To hide the Welcome Screen (where you'd normally log in) you'll need to change from the default windows XP welcome screen to the other style by going to Control Panels >User Accounts >Change the way users logon or off. Deselect the “Use Welcome Screen” checkbox.
  • To change the login background color from blue to black (to better hide it), use regedit again and navigate to
HKEY_USERS\DEFAULT\Control Panel\Colors\Background

The 3-digit RGB color for black is 0 0 0.

  • If this causes the "Classic" login screen to appear that prompts for a password, the login can be automated as follows:
  1. Click start >run >type
    control userpasswords2
  2. Highlight the user you want to log into automatically, then deselect the Users must enter a username and password... checkbox.
  3. Click Apply and you'll be asked to verify the username and password to log in automatically
  4. Click OK again and the next time you restart your computer, you'll automatically be logged in without having the classic prompt or Welcome Screen.

Removing pop-up bubbles

  • In Windows XP, you occasionaly get pop-up bubbles with all kinds of useful (or less useful) information. In the application of running an arcade machine, we use low resolutions, like 640x480 or even 640x288. In these resolutions Windows XP tries to be helpful and lets you know via a pop-up bubble that your resolution setting is not ideal for this videocard. (Another bubble that can come up because of the low resolution is from the Start menu indicating it cannot show all items on the Start menu because of the low resolution.

We need to live with this, so there is no point in these bubbles coming up everytime.)

  • To turn ALL (!) bubbles off follow these steps:

1. Click Start, click Run, type regedit, and then press ENTER.

2. Navigate to the following subkey:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced

3. Right-click the right pane, create a new DWORD value, and then name it EnableBalloonTips.

4. Double-click this new entry, and then give it a hexadecimal value of 0.

5. Quit Registry Editor. Log off Windows, and then log back on.

These steps disable all Notification Area balloon tips for this user. There is no way to disable balloon tips for specific programs only.



Hide Desktop Icons

To hide all of your desktop icons look for the following registry key:

   HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer\NoDesktop

Set it to 1 to hide the icons, 0 to show them (this is the default).

OS windows icon.gif Hiding Windows 98

Hiding Windows 98 is lots easier than hiding Windows XP.

Replacing Your Boot Screen

  • Create a black picture with in BMP format, RGB encoded, 320x400 resolution, 256 colors in MS Paint or another paint application
  • Do NOT try to save pictures in 16bit or 32bit colors or such, because it may crash Windows.
  • Replace logo.sys, logow.sys and logos.sys with your new picture (these are actually bmp files, which were renamed to sys).

Here is more in-depth info about replacing: Replace the Ugly Startup and Shutdown Screens.

Here is a post with lots of good links to logos and free editing tools: Animated/static Win9x/ME logos and free tools to create/edit/manage animated/static logos.

Special concerns when using the ArcadeVGA

When using a custom boot screen logo with the ArcadeVGA video card, the boot resolution is 320x200. This results in only the top half of the image being visible. However, Windows still requires an image that is the full 320x400 pixels. A simple way to handle this is to make a standard sized boot screen image, resize it vertically 50%, then paste two copies (stacked vertically) into a new 320x400 BMP image.

Hiding The Mouse Pointer While Logging Into Windows

You can doing the same way as Windows XP.

Hiding The taskbar

Coming Soon.

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