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Windows services are designed to run without user interaction. They can be started before any user logs in, obviating the need for a particular user to log in and run them, either manually or automatically. Many programs are designed to run as services or to exist in dual implementations as a service and a standalone application.

Some applications, however, just aren't available to run as a service. What do you do if you want one of those applications to run as one?

I've looked into a number of different programs that allow administrators to run NT programs as services, and there are more being written and updated as I write this. Right now, the best noncommercial program for running apps as services appears to be NT Wrapper.

NT Wrapper Lite, the freeware version, offers numerous features: It lets programs or scripts run as services, redirects stdout/stderr output to a file for troubleshooting (a handy feature for console apps) and prioritizes subprocesses. NT Wrapper Pro (the commercial version, which is sold on a license basis) offers even more advanced functions, such as binding the application to a specific CPU and remotely administering services.

Once installed, NT Wrapper Lite lets you add and configure the programs you want to run as services through a GUI interface -- which does not need to be running to use NT Wrapper). You can launch programs in the LocalSystem context (the default) or as another user if needed and create a custom launch environment (variables, etc.) for each application.

The advanced version of the program, NT Wrapper Pro, can be set to have dependencies on or for other services -- i.e., it can be set not to run unless another service is running and vice versa. Note that you may need to experiment to determine the correct combination of user contexts to get some services running correctly.

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Serdar Yegulalp wrote for Windows Magazine from 1994 through 2001, covering a wide range of technology topics. He now uses his expertise in Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP as publisher of The Windows 2000 Power Users Newsletter and writes technology columns for TechTarget.

This was first published in March 2005

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