Reproducing the printer hack of Windows 95

During my daily web crawl I encountered a very interesting gif that I haven’t seen in a long time. It was a hack of an unspecified version of Windows 95, which showed how to bypass the login screen with the help of the menu and printing dialog. However, after a brief check, I found a fair amount of people stating that “just hitting the cancel” button would do the same. Sharp-eyed viewers would notice that it was the very first action taken in the picture. In order to find out if the hack is real at all, I decided to reproduce it and document it for the good of the internet.

↫ David Polakovic

So this hack is actually a lot more involved than I thought it was going to be, and yet, it still feels utterly insane that operating systems were this easy to get into, passwords were this easy to decrypt, and security settings were this trivial to disable. Anyway, the gif is sort-of real, in that yes, you can ‘hack’ Windows 95’s login security through the printing and help subsystems.

Things were different back then, man. I vaguely remember that my high school used to lock us out of the desktop, File Explorer, the Control Panel, and so on, making it impossible for us to access DOS or the games built into Windows 9x. I don’t remember the exact things we used to do, but most of us were aware and used several different methods of bypassing the school lockdowns just to mess around. We never did anything malicious – this is pre-internet, and we just wanted to play some Solitaire or Pinball – but anybody with malicious intent surely could’ve.


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