With the Fall Creators Update, Windows 10 drops support for syskey.exe

By: Costea Lestoc
2 minute read

Many Windows users were and still are looking forward to the newest updates coming from Microsoft. On one hand, you have the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update coming up, which is a pretty big deal even though it might not have the scope and impact of the original Creators Update. Then there’s the Server 2016 RS3 update which also has a lot of people excited. Unfortunately, news has arrived that makes both those releases just a little less exciting: dropping syskey.exe support in both the releases.

Support for syskey.exe has been present in Windows iterations for a very long time since it was first included in Windows 2000.

Since then, it has appeared in all releases and was even backported to Windows NT 4.0. For those that aren’t really aware of what syskey.exe is or what it was used for, it’s a tool developed in order to boost security during the boot process on Windows. It does so by adding an additional protection layer on boot, making it a lot safer.

SAM encryption

The way in which syskey.exe operates is quite intriguing as it moves SAM to another location in order to offer better protection. In this instance, SAM stands for Security Accounts Management. Users are generally familiar to how a password can be set before the OS lets someone access an account. However, Syskey is able to add another password to the process, making it even tougher to crack open an account. What this additional password does basically is encrypt the SAM database. This way, anyone trying to access it will need to provide a password first.

Back to the sad news

Now that readers are a little bit more familiar with Syskey, it must be remembered that Microsoft is actually cutting users off from these features with the two new releases coming to Windows and Windows Server.

Splitting the user base in two

That’s basically what Microsoft is about to do, split the user base into two groups: the ones that weren’t using Syskey and will happily upgrade to the Fall Creators Update, and those that are actually making use of the syskey.exe feature available in earlier builds. The latter category will most likely not upgrade to the Fall Creators Update or the new Windows Server 2017 update for that matter.

In the end, it’s about which features bring the most benefits to each individual users and if the new ones that come with the Fall Creators Update are good enough to make users forget and replace the syskey.exe feature.

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