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How to disable the secure desktop when User Account Control (UAC) prompts for elevation

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Joe Winograd
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The default behavior of the User Account Control (UAC) dialog is to disable (gray-out) the rest of the desktop when prompting for elevation. This is known as secure desktop. There are reasons that you may want to disable this secure desktop behavior, such as capturing a screenshot of the UAC dialog or moving one of the other open windows. There are, of course, security reasons for not changing that behavior, which is why Microsoft made Enabled the default. But if you want to disable the secure desktop behavior of the UAC dialog, here are the steps (this technique works in both Windows 7 and Windows 8):

Control Panel
Administrative Tools
Local Security Policy
Local Policies
Security Options


Scroll down to the item User Account Control: Switch to the secure desktop when prompting for elevation:


Security-options.jpg
Double-click it and you will get this dialog:


Disable-secure-desktop-when-UAC-prompts-
Tick the Disabled radio button and then OK. That's it!

To show the effect of disabling the switch to the secure desktop when prompting for elevation, I used it to be able to capture a screenshot of the UAC dialog for an article that I wrote about the Samsung SSD 840 EVO Performance Restoration Software. With the secure desktop disabled, I was able to hit the Alt-PrintScreen key to capture just the UAC dialog box:


Alt-PrintScreen-while-UAC-dialog-active.
I was also able to position on the screen both the UAC dialog and the window containing the imaging software (IrfanView) that I used to handle the screenshot. So when I hit the PrintScreen key (without the Alt key), I was able to capture the entire desktop with both windows positioned exactly as I wanted them:


PrintScreen-while-UAC-dialog-active.jpg
Update on 25-May-2015: I just tested this technique in the Windows 10 Pro Technical Preview, Build 10122 (the latest Build at the time of this comment) — it works perfectly:

Security-options-W10.jpg
Disable-secure-desktop-when-UAC-prompts-
If you find this article to be helpful, please click the thumbs-up icon below. This lets me know what is valuable for EE members and provides direction for future articles. Thanks very much! Regards, Joe
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