How to Run a Batch File Before Logging on to Your Computer

This article applies to Windows 2000. Support for Windows 2000 ends on July 13, 2010. The Windows 2000 End-of-Support Solution Center is a starting point for planning your migration strategy from Windows 2000. For more information see the Microsoft Support Lifecycle Policy.


Windows 2000 can be configured to run a startup script that is a batch file, VB script or JScript by using Group Policies. These policies can be either domain wide or computer-specific local policies. The AutoExnt utility is included in the Resource Kit so that this functionality is available when you are running a Microsoft Windows NT 4.0-based workstation in either a Windows 2000 or Windows NT 4.0 domain.

The AutoExNT service permits an administrator to configure a Windows 2000-based computer to run a custom batch file when first starting the computer. Also, a user or administrator is not required to be logged on at the time this custom batch file runs. This article explains how you can accomplish this task.

Also, this service may be used when you are not implementing policies. Either a group policy or an individual computer policy can be used to implement a computer based startup script.

More Information

Installing the AutoExNT Service

  1. Using a text editor (such as Notepad), create a batch file named Autoexnt.bat and include the commands you want to run at startup in this file.
  2. Copy the Autoexnt.bat file you just created, in addition to the Autoexnt.exe, Servmess.dll, and Instexnt.exe files located in the Resource Kit CD-ROM to the %SystemRoot%\System32 folder on your computer.
  3. At a command prompt, type instexnt install, and then press ENTER.
You should then receive the following message:

CreateService AutoExNT SUCCESS with InterActive Flag turned OFF
To view the installation processes running on the desktop, you must install the AutoExNT service using the /interactive switch. For example, instead of typing instexnt install, you would type instexnt install /interactive at a command prompt, and then press ENTER.

NOTE: If you use the /interactive switch, any users who log on locally are able to stop the processes from running.

Testing the AutoExNT Service

To test the AutoExNT service, log on to your computer with an account that has administrator credentials, type net start autoexnt at a command prompt, and then press ENTER. The Autoexnt.bat file should run in an MS-DOS window.

NOTE: The AutoExNT service includes a /interactive switch, analogous to the /interactive switch of the AT command. This switch permits you to view the status of processes as they run. Because no user environment variables have yet been declared when AutoExNT runs at system startup, you must use full path names.

Also, if you need a service to be running before you start running a dependent process, you may include a command to start this service at the beginning of your Autoexnt.bat file. For example, if your batch file has commands that require the Server service to be running, include a net start server command at the beginning of your Autoexnt.bat file.

Configuring the AutoExNT Service to Run at Startup

To configure the AutoExNT service to run at startup:

  1. Click Start, point to Programs, point to Administrative Tools, and then click Computer Management.
  2. Double-click the Services and Applications branch to expand it, and then click Services.
  3. Double-click the AutoExNT service, click Automatic in the Startup type box, and then click OK.


This tool is included in the Microsoft Windows 2000 Resource Kit Toolbox.

Article ID: 243486 - Last Review: Dec 16, 2009 - Revision: 1