Audit Mode Overview

Applies To: Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2

When Windows boots, it starts in either Out-Of-Box Experience (OOBE) mode or in audit mode. OOBE is the default out-of-box experience that allows end users to enter their account information, select language, accept the Microsoft Terms of Service, and set up networking.

You can configure Windows to boot to audit mode instead. In audit mode, you can make additional changes to the Windows installation before you send the computer to a customer or capture the image for reuse in your organization. For example, you can install drivers included in a driver package, install applications, or make other updates that require the Windows installation to be running. When you use an answer file, Windows processes settings in the auditSystem and auditUser configuration passes.

When you boot to audit mode, you log into the system using the built-in administrator account. After you log on to the system, the built-in administrator account is immediately disabled during the auditUser configuration pass. The next time that the computer reboots, the built-in administrator account remains 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 screen saver, either change the power plan through Control Panel or configure and deploy a custom plan. For more information, see Create a Custom Power Plan.

  • Settings in an unattended answer file from the oobeSystem configuration pass do not appear in audit mode.

  • Benefits of using Audit Mode

    In audit mode, you can do the following:

    • Bypass OOBE. 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. For more information, see Add a Driver Online in Audit Mode.

    • Test the validity of a Windows installation. Before you deploy 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 OOBE 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 additional changes that are specific to the computer. These changes can be customer-requested applications or specific device drivers.

    Boot to Audit Mode

    You can boot to audit mode on a new or existing Windows installation. For more information, see Boot Windows to Audit Mode or OOBE.

    Automatically Display the Windows 8 Desktop

    In some Windows 8 manufacturing or testing scenarios you might need to automatically display the Windows 8 desktop instead of the Windows 8 start screen after the PC reboots. This might be required if you use manufacturing tools that display status to a Window on the desktop and you want your factory technicians to easily identify issues without having to manually switch from the Windows 8 start screen to the desktop.

    You can automatically display the Windows 8 desktop by using %WINDIR%\System32\oobe\AuditShD.exe. AuditShD.exe must be run by an account with administrator permissions.

    We recommend adding this command-line to your answer file as a RunAsynchronousCommand in the auditUser configuration pass. Use Windows System Image Manager to add Microsoft-Windows-Deployment | RunAsynchronous | RunAsynchronousCommand with the value %WINDIR%\System32\oobe\AuditShD.exe.

    The answer file you create will look similar to the following:

    <settings pass="auditUser">
    <component name="Microsoft-Windows-Deployment" processorArchitecture="x86" publicKeyToken="31bf3856ad364e35" language="neutral" versionScope="nonSxS" xmlns:wcm="" xmlns:xsi="">
           <RunAsynchronousCommand wcm:action="add">
              <Description>Show Desktop</Description>
              <Path>cmd.exe /c %WINDIR%\System32\oobe\AuditShD.exe</Path>

    Before a Windows 8 PC is shipped to a customer, Windows must be configured to boot to the OOBE screens and display the Start screen on first boot. Verify that AuditShD.exe is only configured to run in audit mode and is not used during OOBE.

    See Also


    Windows Setup Supported Platforms and Cross-Platform Deployments


    Understanding Servicing Strategies
    How Configuration Passes Work
    Windows Setup Scenarios and Best Practices
    Windows Setup Installation Process
    Windows Setup Automation Overview

    Other Resources

    Windows Setup Configuration Passes