Increasing Netbook Screen Size

March 21, 2016

I’ve got an old Acer Aspire One 521 netbook that I’ve had for ages. One of the downsides of netbooks is that their screen resolution is 1024×600 – which is too low for a lot of programs. In particular, all the interesting buttons of the MFJ-226 control program “T-Series Vector Impedance Analyzer” are below the bottom of the screen.

I found a workaround that appears to work on Windows 7 and higher. I found it here:

The solution: use regedit to search for all instances of “Display1_DownScalingSupported” and change the value 0 to 1. (According to various things I’ve read, you’ll need to do that for all instances, not just one.) Then reboot. When I did this, I ended up in 1024×768 (which looks strange).

Strange isn’t bad, though. Now I can change resolutions to 1024×768 or 1152×864 if an inconsiderate programmer decides he wants to use more than my screen.


Unlocking a Windows 8.1 machine with MSN password

September 20, 2015

Recently, I inherited a laptop that came with Windows 8.1 installed. The previous owner had forgotten the login password, and no longer had the phones/accounts that were associated with the machine either. (If you have the choice, I’d recommend you avoid Alzheimer’s disease. It sucks.) I wanted to get the user information off before wiping it and reinstalling. Unfortunately, this machine had a Windows Live / MSN password, rather than a local password.

I started with these instructions. They take advantage of an exploit to enable a command shell from the login screen. In short:

  1. Go into Advanced Startup Options and Troubleshoot -> Advanced Options -> Command Prompt
  2. copy c:\windows\system32\utilman.exe c:\
  3. copy c:\windows\system32\cmd.exe c:\windows\system32\utilman.exe
  4. Reboot
  5. Click the “Ease of Access” icon at the bottom left of the login screen. Now this will open a command shell.
  6. If the user had a local account, you’d be home free now. (net user “username” new-password and then copy the original utilman.exe back). But I wasn’t – instead I saw “System error 8646 : The system is not authoritative for the specified account”. That was because the machine had a MSN login / Microsoft Live password. So instead…
  7. net user brandnewuser secretpassword
  8. Reboot again (probably not necessary, but I did this)
  9. Get back into the “Ease of Access” shell
  10. net localgroup Administrators brandnewuser /add
  11. Reboot
  12. Log in as brandnewuser rather than the original user.
  13. Wait a really really long time (10 minutes or so) for Windows to rebuild the desktop for the new user.
  14. At this point, you can navigate to C:\Users and copy the files from the original user to somewhere else. You will probably have to run the Explorer as Adminstrator in order to do this. I recall being prompted with “You don’t have access to this directory, do you want to get it permanently” once or twice. I said “Yes”.
  15. And that’s it – the pictures can now be copied to CD for preservation (except the ones that were stored in Windows Live, of course). After that you can create restore media and wipe/reinstall.