Understanding Audit Mode

Applies To: Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2


This content applies to Windows 7. For Windows 8 content, see Windows Deployment with the Windows ADK.

When Windows boots, the computer can start in one of the following two modes:

  • Windows Welcome. Windows Welcome, also named “out-of-box experience” (OOBE), is the first user experience. Windows Welcome prompts end users to customize their Windows installation. End users create user accounts, read and accept the Microsoft® Software License Terms, and select their language and time zones. By default, immediately after installation, Windows® starts Windows Welcome.

    The oobeSystem configuration pass runs immediately before Windows Welcome starts. For more information about this configuration pass, see oobeSystem Configuration Pass.

  • Audit mode. Audit mode is used to add customizations to Windows images. When you use audit mode, the system does not have to apply settings in Windows Welcome. OEMs and corporations should use audit mode to complete their manual customizations before shipping a computer to an end user.

    In audit mode, the system processes settings in an unattended answer file in the auditSystem and auditUser configuration passes. For more information about these configuration passes, see auditSystem Configuration Pass and auditUser Configuration Pass.

In audit mode, you can:

  • Bypass Windows Welcome. You can access the desktop as quickly as possible. You do not have to configure default settings such as a user account, location, and time zone.

  • Install applications, add device drivers, and run scripts. You can connect to a network and access additional installation files and scripts. You can also install additional language packs and device drivers.

  • Configure Windows. You can make sure that the Windows image that you customize does not have configurations that you will have to remove.

  • Test the validity of a Windows installation. Before you send the system to end users, you can perform tests on the system without creating a user account. Then you can prepare the system to start in Windows Welcome on the next boot.

  • Add more customizations to a reference image. This reduces the number of images that you have to manage. For example, you can create a single reference image that contains the basic customizations that you want to apply to all Windows images. You can then boot the reference image to audit mode and make more changes that are specific to the computer. These changes can be customer-requested applications or specific device drivers.

In default installations of Windows, the built-in administrator account is disabled. However, when you boot to audit mode, the built-in administrator account is enabled automatically so that you can log on to the computer.

In the auditSystem configuration pass, the built-in administrator account is enabled. However, after you log on to the system, the built-in administrator account is disabled during the auditUser configuration pass. This enables you to use audit mode with administrator privileges, but the next time that the computer shuts down, the built-in administrator account will continue to be disabled. For more information, see Enable and Disable the Built-in Administrator Account.


  • If you are in audit mode and a password-protected screen saver starts, you cannot log back on to the system. The built-in administrator account that was used to log on to audit mode is immediately disabled after logon.

    To disable the screensaver, either change the power plan through Windows Control Panel, or configure and deploy a custom plan. For more information, see Configure Power Plans.

  • Settings in an unattended answer file from the oobeSystem configuration pass do not appear in audit mode. However, depending on the configuration of the system, scripts that are configured in the oobeSystem configuration pass may run. For more information, see Modify an Image to Boot to Audit Mode.

  • See Also


    Customize Windows in Audit Mode
    Work with Windows Welcome