How-To Geek

How to Easily Put a Windows PC into Kiosk Mode With Assigned Access

Assigned Access allows you to easily lock a Windows PC to a single application of your choice. This feature makes it easy for anyone to configure Windows 10 (or Windows 8.1) PCs as point-of-sale or other kiosk systems.

This feature was added in Windows 8.1, but it’s still around in Windows 10. You’ll need a Professional, Enterprise, or Education version of Windows to do this–this feature isn’t available in Windows 10 Home or the core versions of Windows 8.1.

Step One: Create a User Account for Assigned Access

Rather than turn your entire computer into a locked-down kiosk system, Assigned Access allows you to create a separate user account that can only launch a single app. To set this up, you must be logged into Windows as a user with administrator permissions.

On Windows 10, open the Settings app and navigate to Accounts > Family & Other People. Click “Add Someone Else to This PC”.

On Windows 8.1, open the PC Settings app and head to Accounts > Other Accounts > Add an Account.

Decide whether you want to sign in with a Microsoft account or not. If you’re setting up a locked down web browsing mode, you may not want to use a Microsoft account. But, if you need to install apps from the Windows Store to use in Assigned Access mode, you’ll have to set up a Microsoft account instead of a local account. A local account will still allow you access to the universal apps included with Windows 10.

Windows 10 will guide you towards creating a Microsoft account by default. If you’d rather create a local user account, click “I Don’t Have This Person’s Sign In Information” and then click “Add a User Without a Microsoft Account” to create a new local user account. Enter a name like “Kiosk” and whatever password you like.

On Windows 8.1, “Sign In Without a Microsoft Account” and then click “Local Account” to create a local user account.

Enter a name like “Kiosk” for the user account. You may want to create a user account with a blank password. This will make it simple for anyone to access kiosk mode, even if the system becomes locked or needs to be rebooted.

The account will be created as a standard user account with limited system permissions. Leave it as a standard user account–don’t make it an administrator account.

Step Two: Set Up Assigned Access

You can now set up Assigned Access. On Windows 10, look under the “Other People” section at Settings > Family & Other People. You’ll see a “Set Up Assigned Access” link. Click it.

Don’t see this link? You’re probably using Windows 10 Home, which doesn’t have the Assigned Access feature. You’ll need to upgrade to Windows 10 Professional to get this feature.

On Windows 8.1, head to PC Settings > Accounts > Other Accounts and click “Set Up an Account for Assigned Access”. You may need to sign into the account a single time so the first-time setup process runs before you configure Assigned Access, although this step isn’t necessary on Windows 10.

Select the user account you created and select the app you want to limit the account to. Here are the limitations:

  • Windows 10 Professional: Only new “Universal Windows Platform” apps bundled with Windows 10 or installed from the Windows Store can be selected. Unfortunately, you can’t choose the Microsoft Edge web browser.
  • Windows 10 Enterprise or Education: In addition to Universal Windows Platform apps, you can choose an installed desktop applications to limit a user account to.
  • Windows 8.1: You may only select Store apps, also known as Modern apps or Metro apps, including the “Modern” version of the Internet Explorer web browser.

When you’re done, sign out of your current user account and log into the Assigned Access account. Windows will automatically open the app you chose in full screen mode and won’t allow a user to leave that app. Standard features like the taskbar and Start menu won’t appear, and the charms bar and app switcher won’t appear on Windows 8.1. Press the Windows key or Alt+Tab and nothing will happen.

To leave Assigned Access mode on Windows 10, press Ctrl+Alt+Delete. On Windows 8.1, press the Windows key five times quickly. The account will actually still be logged in and the app will remain running–this method just “locks” the screen and allows another user to log in.

Step Three (Optional): Automatically Log Into Assigned Access Mode

Whenever your Windows PC boots, you can log into the Assigned Access account and turn it into a kiosk system. While this isn’t ideal for all kiosk systems, you may want the device to automatically launch the specific app when it boots without requiring any login process.

To do so, you’ll just need to have Windows automatically log into the Assigned Access account when it boots. This option is hidden, and not available in the standard Control Panel. You’ll need to use the hidden netplwiz Control Panel tool to set up automatic login on boot.

To do so, open a Run dialog by pressing Windows+R on your keyboard, type netplwiz into the box, and press Enter. Select the Kiosk user account, uncheck “Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer”, and provide the kiosk user account’s password.

If you didn’t create a password for the user account, leave the Password field empty while configuring this.

If You Have Other Accounts, Keep Them Secure

If you’re using this feature to turn a Windows 10 or 8.1 system into a kiosk and leaving it open to the public, remember to consider security. Anyone could come up to the system, press Ctrl+Alt+Delete or the Windows key five times, and try to log into your standard administrator user account. Ensure the administrator user account has a strong password so people won’t be able to get past the kiosk system’s limitations and gain access to the rest of the system.

Replace Windows with a Custom Shell (Enterprise and Education Only)

Windows 10 added a new, related feature named Shell Launcher. Unfortunately, it’s restricted to the Enterprise and Education editions of Windows 10. This feature isn’t included in Windows 10 Professional.

Shell Launcher allows you to replace Windows 10’s shell–that is, Windows Explorer–with a custom shell of your choice. You can use any traditional desktop application as a custom shell. A business could restrict PCs to a single traditional desktop application or create a custom-made shell environment.

As this is intended for more experienced system administrators, it’s more complicated to set up. Consult Microsoft’s Shell Launcher documentation for more information.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 10/24/16

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