Thursday, May 02, 2013

Stop Annoying UAC Prompts – How To Create A User Account Control Whitelist

 
 

Sent to you by Chris Hunter via Google Reader:

 
 

via MakeUseOf by Aaron Couch on 5/1/13

stop uac promptEver since Vista, we Windows users have been pestered, bugged, annoyed, and tired of the User Account Control (UAC) prompt telling us a program is starting up that we intentionally launched. Sure, it has improved, but not to the extent that we've hoped. It still comes up for good and reputable programs like Geek Uninstaller, Everything, CCleaner (although they have included an option to disable the prompt), and others.

So what do you do to stop UAC prompts – disable it? I don't recommend that. UAC does still have a good purpose and shouldn't probably completely disabled. What if I told you there were three different techniques you can use to launch programs at the highest privileges and bypass the UAC prompt? Well, you can. But there is one requirement – you must have shortcuts.

Task Scheduler Method

The Task Scheduler method is great for those who don't want to rely on a third-party program. Probably the fastest way to access the Task Scheduler is to go to the Start Menu and type Task Scheduler in the search box. Or if you have Windows 8 and you haven't installed a Start Menu alternative yet, (notice I say yet because eventually you will), you can hover over the bottom right corner to trigger the Charms Bar, click Search (magnifying glass) and type Task Scheduler.

stop uac prompt

Next you'll need to create a new folder for your tasks that you're about to create in Task Scheduler. On the left side, you'll see Task Scheduler Library, right click that and choose New Folder. From here you can name your folder something like myTasks or UAC Whitelist. For this article, I'm using the latter, but you can use whatever you'd like. It's probably obvious, but this is the folder you will be creating all the tasks in.

turn off uac prompts

On the right side panel, click Create Task… (not Create Basic Task). In the Name field, type whatever you'd like to name the task as. It's a good idea to include the program name. Next, check the box for Run with highest privileges – this is crucial that you do this. Without this step, it won't work at all. Then choose whatever operating system you're using in the Configure for: dropdown menu.

turn off uac prompts

Next, click the Actions tab, shown in the image above. Then click the New… button in the bottom left corner. The Action dropdown menu should automatically list Start a program, but if it doesn't that's what it needs to be. Next you browse the Programs Files folder for your program.

If you have a 64-bit operating system, you might have two – it's up to you to figure out where the program that you are searching for is. You want to make sure that you choose the executable file (.exe). Click OK.

turn off uac prompts

NOTE: If you're using a laptop, you may also want to go to the Conditions tab and uncheck the boxes under Power, as these will prevent the program from launching if you're laptop falls under these conditions. See image below.

uac prompts

Next you'll need to create a shortcut to the program on your desktop or where ever you prefer to organize your application shortcuts. Right click, hover over New, and click Shortcut.

uac prompts

A window will come up displaying a text field to enter the location of the shortcut.

Format Of Text:

C:\Windows\System32\schtasks.exe /RUN /TN "Name Of Folder\Name Of Task"

Example: 

C:\Windows\System32\schtasks.exe /RUN /TN "UAC Whitelist\EverythingSkipUAC"

The only thing you need to worry about changing are the folder and program names (bolded). And now you're able to launch your program without the UAC prompt.

TIP: You may have noticed that the program icon doesn't get carried over… unfortunately. To make your shortcuts look a little nicer and distinguish them from the others you'll be creating, I recommend the following steps:

Right click on the icon and click Properties. You should automatically be under the Shortcut tab. Click the bottom, middle button Change Icon. Another window will pop up where you'll click Browse and then navigate to where your program is in the Program Files folder. Select the Application file and click open. Then select the icon and click OK in both of the existing windows.

uac prompts

BIG BREATH! And… you're done! With this one – yes, you will have to do this for every program that you want. And because of this, I recommend only doing it with programs you access regularly.

PROS: This method doesn't need any third party program to work – it's all done right in Windows.

CONS: It's tedious and takes time to get the process down, and even after you've "got it down" it's still slightly time consuming.

zElevator Via The Context Menu

Another option is to simply launch a few different programs with a small application called zElevator that resides in your context menu. After downloading the compressed file, extract the contents with a program like 7-Zip and click the file called zElevatorConfig. A message like the one below will then pop up.

Complete the activation process and you're good to go. You shouldn't need to manually access any of these files again.

NOTE: The setup process doesn't automatically place zElevator in your Programs Files folder, so it might be a good idea to do so by moving the whole folder over before running the zElevatorConfig file. This will ensure that nothing happens to the program if it was simply extracted into the same folder that the compressed file was downloaded into.

Now you can right click on any application, click Elevate me and run it without a UAC prompt.

There are other forms of this same Elevator application, but this one seemed the most stable and reliable.

PROS: Fairly quick setup and easy to do.

CONS: Relies on an additional program and requires an extra step to launch it, which basically means it equals out to just as much time to launch a program with the UAC prompt as one without.

DOWNLOAD zElevator.

UAC Trust Shortcut

UAC Trust Shortcut is a small application that allows you to create shortcuts of the original applications and bypass the UAC. Think of this as a much simpler version of the Task Scheduler technique. Upon visiting the download page, you need to decided between downloading the version for a 32-bit operating system (x86) or the version for a 64-bit operating system (x64) Read more here to understand the difference.

The program will download in a compressed file, which you'll need to unzip. Once you do, run the setup. Here's a quick note about the setup (a lesson I learned after making this exact mistake). Don't change the location of the program in the setup. If you do, it won't work.

Once you run UAC Trust Shortcut, type a name for your program in the Name: text field and then click Browse and find the executable file for the desired program. Then click the oddly-small Add now link under the Browse button. And then just repeat for as many programs that you want.

PROS: Automates many of the tasks which you would do manually for the Task Scheduler technique, making it much faster and easier.

CONS: Still a third-party program. If something happens to it, all your shortcuts are gone, whereas your Tasks in the Task Scheduler can be backed up.

Bonus: TweakUAC

TweakUAC, by WinAbility, is no stranger to Windows users, since Vista first introduced UAC. In fact, I'd be surprised if you haven't heard of it, although if you haven't that's okay. TweakUAC doesn't technically create a whitelist, per se, but more so a way to subdue it.

stop uac prompt

As you can see in the image above, you have three options. The first turns UAC off altogether – not recommended. The second option switches it into "quiet mode", which basically means that the UAC elevation prompts will be suppressed for administrators. And the last option, of course, is to leave it on and fully functional.

There aren't really any "pros" and "cons" to this one since it's an entirely different tool altogether, but I feel it's worth mentioning should you decide that it fits you best.

If you're concerned about the "threats" that you might be vulnerable to due to suppressing the UAC, take a look at this quote from WinAbility/TweakUAC:

If you rely solely on UAC to keep you safe from malware, then yes, your risk increases and in such a situation you should not use the "quiet" mode. However, if you use an anti-virus program, have the firewall enabled, and keep your Windows updated regularly, then UAC popups become more of a nuisance without adding much security. Any malware should be stopped by the anti-virus and firewall. If it's reached the point of asking you to confirm its execution, it's already too late!

Conclusion

One big con is that all of these still require a shortcut (except TweakUAC, but it's not a true whitelist method). Ideally, there would be a solution to create a whitelist for the original executable files, instead of these annoying workarounds. I personally am not a big fan of shortcuts, as I'm a major advocate of a clean and organized desktop, and shortcuts (especially those with ugly icons) don't do the finest job at helping me achieve that.

Now you may be able to use these shortcuts in applications like Fences or a dock (e.g. Rocketdock, Objectdock). When I tested this idea using ObjectDock, the Task Scheduler shortcut launched successfully, zElevate obviously doesn't work because it requires being in a context menu, and UAC Trust Shortcut failed to launch the shortcut saying that the file couldn't be found.

Hopefully these options will help ease the pain of the UAC prompts. Do you already use one or more of these methods? Have you found success in a different method? Feel free to share your thoughts, comments and any relevant questions you may have in the comments below.

Image Credit: UAC Icon

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