Alt Codes

This is kind of silly but I thought I’d share it anyway. Sometime yesterday afternoon I locked my system and went to talk with a colleague about an issue. I was in for a little surprise when I got back. I pressed Ctrl-Alt-Delete and went to type in my password as I always do when I come back to my system. However, it wasn’t accepting it. I checked the caps lock but it was off. My keyboard was working because I could see the password character symbols as I typed.

I started to think that  someone in the office was fooling with me. Maybe I hadn’t locked my system and someone came along and changed my password. A friend in the office had a little program he used to install a long time ago on people’s system and send random messages so it wasn’t far fetched that someone would be playing a practical joke. But when I thought about it, it couldn’t be – they would have to know my current password to change it.

I then expanded the options section of the login dialog and I noticed that the lower left corner of the dialog read “AR”. This area is supposed to indicate the current keyboard layout so my keyboard layout was setup for Arabic. When you have multiple layouts installed, you’re supposed to be able to click on this area and choose a different keyboard layout but it wasn’t showing me a list so I guess I only had 1 keyboard layout installed at the time. Earlier that day, I was testing some right-to-left functionality and I had change my system keyboard – actually I think I changed the shell using XP’s MUI. When I was finished, I thought I had changed it back but I must have done something wrong.

I didn’t want to hard boot because I had Visual Studio running, as well as some other apps, and I didn’t think I had saved all the changes. For some reason, I remembered how you used to be able to type in characters by pressing Alt plus the character code. I played around with typing it in in the user name textbox so I could verify the characters and then finally typed in my password using the alt key codes and was able to get back into my system. To make things worse, instead of fixing the problem immediately – resetting the keyboard layout and rebooting – I had to get something finished first so I worked on that and got called away again – instinctively locking my system and having to type it in using the alt codes all over again when I got back.

One Response to “Alt Codes”

  1. Karl Shifflett Says:


    You have just discovered how to really keep our systems secure! Change the keyboard to something other than English. Great idea!

    This is great practice for CIA (Mole) school. Busting out our decoder rings to gain access to our system.

    On a more serious note, maybe adding in ALT + 14 or ALT + 3 in our normal password is a pretty good idea.



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