In the Windows 8 Microsoft is making sure users see the Metro interface first thing when the OS boots up. Even if you drag an application like XBMC into the Startup folder it won’t work exactly as you expect. Doing that will cause XBMC to start with Windows 8, but it will be running in the Desktop portion of the OS. That means you won’t actually see XBMC until you switch from the Metro interface over to the Desktop.

There are different ways around this, and I’m going to share my favorite way for anyone using their machine primarily as an HTPC. It leverages the kiosk mode that has been present in previous versions of Windows, and still remains available in Windows 8. The nice thing about this mode for anyone using their machine as a dedicated HTPC is that it keeps the minimal amount of processes and services running providing a highly optimized XBMC experience with very little tweaking.

–Enable Autologin in Windows 8–

  1. Open the Run command by pressing the WinKey+R from the Windows 8 Desktop, and type “control userpasswords2” followed by the Enter key:
    Windows 8 run command passwords
  2. Select the account you want to autologin with, and then uncheck the box labeled “Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer“.
    Windows 8 autologin
  3. Click OK, and you should be prompted to enter in the password for that user.

–Disable Password Protection When Resuming from Sleep–

If you want to seamlessly be able to put your computer to sleep and wake it up you might want to consider disabling the password prompt that will be displayed each time the computer wakes up.

  1. Open the Control Panel (you can just press the Windows Key and start typing “Control Panel”)
  2. Once in the Control Panel go to System and Security -> Power Options -> Change Plan Settings -> Change Advanced Power Settings, and click the link that says “Change settings that are currently unavailable“. Now you can set the “Require a password on wakeup” option to No.
    Windows 8 disable password wakeup

–Set XBMC to Run at Startup in Windows 8–

Note that this uses the policy editor found in Windows 8, and I’ve confirmed myself that it is included in the the final version of Windows 8 Pro that is shipping. I have not, however, confirmed which other versions of Windows 8 this will work in. Here’s what you need to do to get XBMC to run when starting Windows 8 Pro:

  1. Open the Run command by pressing the WinKey+R from the Windows 8 Desktop, and type “gpedit.msc” followed by the Enter key:
    Windows 8 run global policy
  2. Go to User Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> System, and open the Custom User Interface option that should be listed along the right side:
    Windows 8 custom interface
  3. Fill in the Enabled bubble, and then provide the full path to the XBMC executable:
    Windows 8 xbmc startup
  4. Click OK, and restart your computer. XBMC should be shown immediately after startup.

You need to keep in mind that with this mode anything that you place in the Startup folder will not start with Windows 8. Those items are only triggered when the desktop or Metro interfaces run, but there is a way to get around this. If you need anything specific to run you can create a batch file that lists out each of the executables you need to start with Windows 8 (including XBMC), and then in Step 3 above you can put the path to the batch file.

–Navigating Back to the Desktop in Windows 8–

After you have enabled the kiosk mode in Windows 8 there will probably be times that you need to make changes to the system, and to do so you need to get back to the classic desktop. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Exit from XBMC:
    Xbmc exit
  2. Press Control+Alt+Delete, and choose the option to start the Task Manager:
    Windows 8 control alt delete
  3. Once the Task Manager appears go to File -> Run new task:
    Windows 8 task manager
  4. From the Run command type “explorer.exe” and press Enter:
    Windows 8 run command
  5. At this point you should see the Windows 8 Desktop, but the Taskbar may not have any icons. Just go ahead and press the Windows Key to flip over to the Metro interface, and the next time you switch back to the Desktop it should look just like you’d expect it to.

–Conclusion–

There you go. With all of that in place you should be able to start your Windows 8 computer and immediately begin enjoying everything that XBMC has to offer.

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There Are 41 Comments

  1. Ryan,
    Is there any real advantage to using Windows 8 if the system is only going to to be an HTPC.

    • Windows 8 is a very performance-optimized OS so I definitely think there are benefits in that regard. Though I think some people may want to hold off until more companies have had a chance to develop drivers for Windows 8 RTM just to make sure things run as optimal as possible.

    • Some of the default codecs provided in Windows 7 have been removed in Windows 8 unless you pay extra for the WMC addon to Pro.

    • A more simple way to do this is to install classic shell eg: [classicshell.net] and place xbmc shortcut in start just how you would have in windows vista etc , yes all background running but simple way round it just a thought.

  2. Thanks for this!!! I use a Windows 8 laptop 80% for XBMC but occupationally as a laptop. This tweak is fantastic!

  3. Well… I have Windows 8 (regular edition) but don’t have gpedit.msc.. Do you know how to do that then? Thank you in advance.

  4. This doesn’t seem to work on the final version. It looks like that policy has been removed.

  5. Thanks guys for letting me know you don’t see the setting. I’m using an MSDN version of Windows 8 Pro (the final RTM version that will officially ship in October) and I’ve confirmed that this setting is there. Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to install other versions to see if it’s included or what some workarounds might be.

  6. The guide works well and XMBC starts but for some reason the Intel Service Manager is crashing consistantly,
    Have you had any similar problems?

    Ismagent.exe dlnashext.dll

    • Is it only when using the Kiosk mode in Windows 8, or every time your Windows 8 machine starts? Maybe you could try disabling the service. From my quick Google search it appears that the service is mostly used for the Intel app store stuff.

  7. It seems to happen every time Windows resumes from sleep. I will disable the service.

  8. Thanks for the tweaks, worked for me. I wish XBMC would make a quicker way to get to the desktop or Start screen using the Windows button on you keyboard like the rest of Windows 8.

  9. This is really awesome.

    The only thing is: this blocks any of the startup programs (also those not in the startup-menu) from loading.

    I need my iMon Manager to load, do you know of any way to do that?

    • Yep, I had actually run into a similar issue. What you need to do is create a batch file, and put that into the interface file name instead of the XBMC.exe. That way the batch file will be called upon startup, which you can have multiple executables launch with the batch file.

  10. Thanks for this guide, but unfortunately on windows 8 it changes this for all users. Which doesn’t allow for concurrent RDP connections to be established in the background. Any clues ?

  11. Gpedit is not available for Windows 8 home version.
    is there another way to apply the kiosk mode?

  12. When creating the batch file for startup does it matter which order the executable are in? Or should XMBC be first and the rest trailing after?

    • It depends on whether the stuff you are starting is required for XBMC to run smoothly. For me I just have XBMC load last to ensure everything else has been loaded.

  13. Running retail release of windows 8 and cannot get this too work. Still load straight to metro, any ideas?

  14. Does this mode load all necessary drivers? I plan on using this with an Asrock Vision X and I want to make sure that, for example, the video drivers are loaded. Thank you.

    • Yes, it will properly load all drivers. It just won’t load apps that you normally set to run at startup. Since this is a “kiosk” mode it is important that Microsoft still loads all of the drivers and stuff.

  15. Do you know how run Iexplorer or chrome from XBMC, normaly I use for XBMC, but some times I need browse internet.

    Thanks

    • You could create two users, one for XBMC and one for chrome. Then when you log in have a bat file to launch the correct application based on user name

  16. Can someone post an example of how the batch file would look? I need sabnzbd to start along with xbmc

  17. I too need help creating a batch file to open XBMC last. I need my wifi and remote drivers to startup first. My current file starts them all up at once, making XBMC go to the background so that I have to click on it to bring it to the foreground for my remote to control it. Here is mine:

    @echo off

    Start “1″ “C:\Program Files\TRENDnet\TEW-624UB\WlanCU.exe”
    Start “2″ “C:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\VideoMate\ComproRemote.exe”
    Start “3″ “C:\Program Files (x86)\XBMC\XBMC.exe”
    exit

    • I removed the first program as I realised it was not needed, and that sorts things out as it was the thing coming starting in foreground and pushing XBMC in the background.

      Love the speed of booting with Win8 mixed with a UEFI BIOS.

  18. An easier way to get back to the desktop:

    In XBMC, install advanced launcher.
    Create New launcher. (Standalone)
    Navigate to C:\Windows\explorer.exe
    Remove “%rom%”
    When Select Platform appears, hit escape.
    Click “OK” in the next window.
    Right click on the launcher you created. (explorer)
    Click edit launcher then advanced modifications.
    Change Toggle XBMC Fullscreen to Off.
    Change Shortcut (.lnk) support to off.
    Right click the explorer launcher and add to favorites.
    NOTE: Under Video Output in System Settings, set “Use fullscreen window rather than true full screen” to off.

    Works perfectly for me in Frodo RC3.

  19. Might I offer a slight improvement. Windows 8 supports multiple local GPOs. So instead of configuring the custom shell in the default local GPO, which makes it apply to all users, I suggest configuring it in the GPO for the users account that XBCM is running under (the account that is automatically logged on). Then you can sign out of the XBCM user and sign in as another user and use the default Windows 8 GIU.

    Morgan

  20. Can anyone tell me how to undo these settings? I must have made a mistake somewhere as I cannot navigate back to the Windows 8 desktop.

    Everything works as ecpected on booting straight into XBMC; however, when trying to get back to the Win8 desktop, CRTL-ALT-DEL doesn’t bring up the menu.

    Any help?

  21. Thanks for this how-to. XBMC starts perfect with this settings. But I have a problem creating and running a batch file which should start XBMC and ANYDVD-HD (to watch Blu Ray Discs).

    1. Created a start.bat with these two lines:
    C:\Program Files (x86)\XBMC\XBMC.exe
    C:\Program Files (x86)\Slysoft\AnyDVD\anydvd.exe
    2. Follow step 3 and 4 above and linked the start.bat
    3. XBMC and AnyDVD donĀ“t start. Short flash of a DOS-Box after booting and screen remains black.

  22. There is also a great little program called XBMClauncher that you can use to automate these settings and more. What I like is with it, you can set it to auto start explorer.exe and other programs when XBMC shuts down. Very handy!

  23. Fantastic!

    I start XBMC from a batch file:

    start “” “C:\Program Files\X10Receiver.NET\X10Receiver.NET.exe”
    “C:\Program Files\XBMC\XBMC.exe”
    start “” explorer.exe

    The advantage is, if you start XBMC from a batch only by full path, the batch waits until XBMC is closed.
    And if you close XBMC, explorer.exe starts automatically.
    If I want to close XBMC without starting explorer.exe, I use a separate button on my remote control to shutdown.
    The first command enables my remote control.

  24. working good… but when try to exit XBMC window goes to blank screen.

    Please anybody how to fix this.. I have already tried ALT+CRL+DEL

    Just blank screen with my mouse cursor…:(

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