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Disable Secure Desktop

The "UAC prompt" usually appears on a separate desktop, that only the user has access to. A malicious program cannot interfere with the secure desktop. So this is in fact an additional layer of security.

On the other hand, many people find it disturbing. The screen goes dark or is dimmed and the prompt appears only after a short delay. Updating the graphics driver may help, sometimes. But one thing is for sure: it is much better to keep UAC turned on, and only disable Secure Desktop. Please see the following FAQ for more details.



Is it less secure?

There is a lot of discussion going on about this topic and we sure cannot answer it concludingly. Fact is, only the user can access the Secure Desktop, not any malware. However, the UAC prompt appears in an elevated window anyway, which cannot be controlled from non-elevated programs. For example, sending key strokes to the UAC prompt is NOT possible.

It depends on the graphics driver?

Yes, if used on a fresh installation, with the default graphics driver, at 800x600, Aero turned off, you don't see any flicker or delay (which is probably what the developers had in mind). On a large screen and with Aero turned on, the switch may take a few seconds. Not good.

What is the "black screen of death"?

Allegedly depending on the graphics driver, switching to the secure desktop may not finish and thus leave you with a completely black screen. You could still press ALT+C (or ESC) into the dark. However, that would demolish the idea of switching, in the first place, because you don't even see what you confirm.

If you encounter a black screen, first try to update your graphics driver. If that doesn't help, turning off Secure Desktop is better than confirming prompt you can't see.

I thought, switching to the secure destkop tells me that the prompt is really from the system (and not a fake dialog box)?

No, if a program can fake a dialog box, it may as well fake a desktop switch and dimm the screen. Don't confirm UAC prompts unless you have just started exactly that program. Period. Pay even more attention if you are asked for a password.

The one thing that would really help is a user-defined picture, or a text, or a pattern, that only the system has access to. When you see "your" picture you know immediately that this is a prompt from the system. Alas, as phishing becomes more and more of a problem, this may be a good enhancement for the next service pack of Windows... Ask your friendly Microsoft support person!


Related Topics

Silence UAC
Turn off Security Center Alerts


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