Windows XP, by default, uses a redesigned Welcome screen login methodology: The user clicks on a username and then types in his or her password. The "classic" login screen, as featured in Windows NT and beyond, simply has a username and password box, and the user must manually type in both.
Normally, to change from one style of login to the other, the administrator for that system needs to go to Control Panel | User Accounts | Change the way users log on or off and uncheck the Use the welcome screen box. This forces the user to log in using the old dialog and protects against people learning the names of other users at a glance in the Welcome screen (one of the things administrators have always been concerned about with the Welcome screen).
There have been a few other circumstances where having the old-style login has been useful -- for instance, when using Kerberos authentication. For that reason, Microsoft built an emergency function into the Welcome screen to allow a user to invoke the classic login screen: press Ctrl-Alt-Del twice at the Welcome screen. Note that this will only work after a user has logged off or after a reboot; it does not work if the Welcome screen has been invoked to do a fast user switch.
Because this double-Ctrl-Alt-Del technique is essentially an emergency provision, there has been talk within Microsoft of removing it. For that reason, it should only be considered a viable option for alternate logins in Windows XP only, and it might even be removed in a future service pack to that operating system. (It should always be possible, however, to return to the classic logon screen through the technique described above in User Accounts.)
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Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- and please share your thoughts as well!
This was first published in September 2005