There are some basics changes you can make to the logon screen without the use of any additional software or hacks. In fact, you can decide whether the Welcome screen, the default logon screen for Windows XP Home Edition, is used. To make these changes, you need to log on using a Windows account that has administrative rights.
Click the Start button and then select the Control Panel. In the Control Panel, click the User Accounts icon. The User Accounts window opens. Click the Change the Way Users Log On or Off link. The logon and logoff options appear (see Figure 13.2).
Figure 13.2. Decide whether to use the Welcome screen.
The Welcome screen provides an icon for each user on the computer. Click the icon and provide a password, if required, to log on as that user.
To disable the Welcome screen, clear the Use the Welcome Screen check box and click Apply Options. The next time you boot the computer and log on, the classic logon screen will be provided. This logon requires that a username and password be entered. Figure 13.3 shows the classic logon screen.
Figure 13.3. The classic logon makes your computer more secure.
Although the classic logon provides more security for your system because it requires a username and password, you will obviously want to use the Welcome screen if you plan on skinning the logon screen. If you are already using the classic logon screen, be sure to enable the Welcome screen before you use your skinning software to modify the logon screen.
Another simple modification you can make to the Welcome/logon screen is the picture that is shown for each computer user. This picture is not only used on the Welcome screen, but is also applied to the top of the Start panel, which is accessed when you click the Start button. So, modifying the picture helps dress up the logon screen and Start panel.
Click the Start button and then select the Control Panel. In the Control Panel, click the User Accounts icon. The User Accounts window opens. Select the account you want to modify, using the icon for that particular account. The account information for that account appears (see Figure 13.4).
Figure 13.4. Access the settings for a user account.
You can add a background graphic to the classic logon by changing some system Registry entries. Messing with the Registry is another thing Microsoft doesn't recommendnor do I, if you haven't really worked with the Registry before. See http://www.updatexp.com/, which provides information on Windows error codes and a variety of other information related to Windows XP.
Click the Change My Picture link. A number of picture options provided by Windows appears. It makes sense to use your own pictures. Click the Browse for More Pictures link. Use the Open dialog box to locate your picture, and then click Open. The picture is assigned to the account. You can now close the User Accounts window and the Control Panel.
Then next time you log on to the system, the picture is used. Figure 13.5 shows a custom picture that is used for the user account; this picture also appears at the top of the Start panel.
Figure 13.5. Customize the user account picture.
Obviously, changing the user picture is a pretty small modification to the Welcome screen. Let's take a look at how various skinning software handles modifications to the logon screen.