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Windows 7: SysKey - Create USB Key to Lock or Unlock Windows



SysKey - Create USB Key to Lock or Unlock Windows

How to Create a USB Startup Key to Lock or Unlock Windows
Published by Brink
31 Jul 2012
Published by

How to Create a USB Startup Key to Lock or Unlock Windows

information   Information
SysKey (SAM Lock Tool) is an in-built Windows utility that can help you secure the Security Accounts Management or SAM database. The SAM Database stores hashed copies of our user passwords, which is encrypted with a locally stored system startup key by default.

You can use SysKey to store the startup key locally in Windows or on a USB flash drive. Having the startup key stored on a USB flash drive instead will give you better security since the USB flash drive must be connected at startup to be able to login and gain access to Windows.

This tutorial will show you how to use SysKey to be able to create a USB flash key "Startup Key Disk" to lock or unlock Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8 with.

You must be logged in as an administrator to be able to do the steps in this tutorial.


Note   Note
If you Lock Windows with OPTION ONE:
  • The startup key placed on the USB flash drive is only good to gain access to logon to the specific Windows that it was created in.
  • This will only lock the Windows computer at boot from a cold startup after a restart or shut down. It will not lock Windows after a log off, lock, or switch user.
  • Once Windows has started after logging in, you will no longer need to have the USB flash drive connected. It is only required to be connected at system startup at boot.
  • You will still be able to continue to use the USB flash drive as normal. Just do not ever delete the StartKey.Key file on it, or you will not be able to unlock Windows with it anymore.
  • It is recommended to create a USB flash drive per user that you wish to be able to log in from startup.
EXAMPLE: Windows Startup
NOTE: This is an example of what you will see at Windows startup after using OPTION ONE. Windows will not startup until you connect the USB startup key.
SysKey - Create USB Key to Lock or Unlock Windows-startup.jpg



OPTION ONE
To Lock Windows to Require a USB Key at Startup to Unlock

NOTE: This option will store the startup key on your USB flash key instead of locally. It will require the USB flash drive to be connected at system startup to be able to unlock Windows.
1. If you have not already, you will need to change the drive letter of the USB flash drive to have the letter A. (see screenshot below)
SysKey - Create USB Key to Lock or Unlock Windows-diskmgmt.jpg
2. Press the Windows+R keys to open the Run dialog, type syskey, and click/tap on OK.

3. If prompted by UAC, then click/tap on Yes (Windows 7/8) or Continue (Vista).

4. Click/tap on Update. (see screenshot below)
Name:  syskey-1.jpg
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5. Select (dot) System Generated Password, select (dot) the Store Startup Key on Floppy Disk option, and click/tap on OK. (see screenshot below)
Name:  syskey-2.jpg
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6. If you have not already, connect the USB flash drive with the drive letter of A from step 1, and click/tap on OK. (see screenshot below)
Name:  syskey-3.jpg
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7. Click/tap on OK. (see screenshot below)



Note   Note
  • This places the StartKey.Key file on the USB flash drive. If you already have an existing StartKey.Key file on the USB, then the older existing one would be renamed to StartKey.Bak for the new one to be saved to it.
  • It is recommended that you keep a backup of this StartKey.Key file at another location in case the USB gets corrupted or lost. This way you will be able to copy it to another USB with a drive letter of A to be able to gain access to Windows again.
Name:  syskey-4.jpg
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8. Click/tap on OK. (see screenshot below)
Name:  syskey-5.jpg
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9. Windows will now require this USB flash drive to be connected at startup when you boot your computer to be able to login to Windows.



OPTION TWO
To Unlock Windows to Not Require a USB Key at Startup

NOTE: This option is the default setting in Windows to store the startup key locally. It will undo OPTION ONE to have Windows no longer require the USB flash drive at startup.
1. Press the Windows+R keys to open the Run dialog, type syskey, and click/tap on OK.

2. If prompted by UAC, then click/tap on Yes (Windows 7/8) or Continue (Vista).

3. Click/tap on Update. (see screenshot below)
Name:  syskey-1.jpg
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Size:  35.3 KB
4. Select (dot) System Generated Password, select (dot) the Store Startup Key Locally option, and click/tap on OK. (see screenshot below)
Name:  undo-2.jpg
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5. If you have not already, connect the USB flash drive with the drive letter of A from OPTION ONE, and click/tap on OK. (see screenshot below)
Name:  undo-3.jpg
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6. Click/tap on OK. (see screenshot below)
Name:  syskey-5.jpg
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Size:  19.8 KB
7. Windows will now no longer require the USB flash drive to be connected at startup for access.
That's it,
Shawn





31 Jul 2012   #1
Kari

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Center
 
 

Very good and very useful tutorial.

A question: System generates password. Can I backup it to another USB stick? I mean, I would like to use this method on a laptop that normally always follows me and is often left unattended (though locked to Welcome screen) but I would not like to have only one USB to boot the computer. What if the USB gets corrupted? I would like to have "a set of spare keys".

Kari

My System SpecsSystem Spec
31 Jul 2012   #2
Brink
Microsoft MVP

64-bit Windows 8.1 Enterprise
 
 

Hello Kari,

Thank you.

Yes, you can backup the StartKey.Key file that is placed on the USB key. The only requirement to restore it is to have a USB key drive with the drive letter as A for it, and copy the StartKey.Key file to the USB's root directory.

It would be a very smart idea to backup the StartKey.Key file.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
31 Jul 2012   #3
Kari

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Center
 
 

OK. Thanks.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
.


31 Jul 2012   #4
Brink
Microsoft MVP

64-bit Windows 8.1 Enterprise
 
 

You're welcome.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
01 Aug 2012   #5
bej

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64bit
 
 

One (silly ?) question. Since I don't have a floppy drive (it's turned off in BIOS), do I need to turn it on for the USB logon to work ?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
01 Aug 2012   #6
Brink
Microsoft MVP

64-bit Windows 8.1 Enterprise
 
 

Hello Bej,

No, you sure don't since this is at Windows startup and not at boot. Having the USB flash drive set with the drive letter A is all Windows needs for the USB flash drive to work at startup for this.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
01 Aug 2012   #7
bej

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64bit
 
 

Thank you for responding.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
01 Aug 2012   #8
Brink
Microsoft MVP

64-bit Windows 8.1 Enterprise
 
 

You're most welcome. Please let us know how it went for you.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
01 Aug 2012   #9
bej

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64bit
 
 

The tutorial worked perfectly. Appreciate all your work on this website.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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 SysKey - Create USB Key to Lock or Unlock Windows




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