What is Audit Mode?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2019
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Audit mode is an operating system setting in Windows™ to allow users to access the desktop and configure changes without needing to enter settings or set up a user account. End consumers rarely need audit mode. Instead, manufacturers and resalers use it to set up custom configurations and test the operating system before delivering a computer to a user. People can access this startup option by pressing the control, shift, and F3 buttons simultaneously while the computer boots.

Normally, when someone starts a new installation of Windows™, it goes into the welcome screen. The user must move through a series of prompts to set up an account and password, establish a time zone, and so forth. This can take between 10 and 20 minutes and the system will configure these changes before delivering the user to the desktop. At this point, the user can start interacting with the operating system, making additional changes, and using the computer.

In audit mode, the computer bypasses this step. It boots directly to the desktop and the user has access to a default administrator account. People can add and remove software, customize the system, and make any other desired changes during this process. They can also validate the Windows™ installation, check for conflicts, and make sure the computer is working properly. After shutting down, when the computer restarts, it will open with the welcome screen.


One advantage of audit mode is that the user will still feel like the computer is brand new, as no traces are left behind. The technician does not have to configure a user account or set generic settings by going through the welcome screen to make system changes. This can be important when preparing a computer for sale, as users generally want the impression that they are the first to boot a new computer, even though this is never the case, since someone has to start up the computer during installation to make sure it works properly.

While in audit mode, people have access to a full range of features including the ability to connect to networks and make a variety of system changes. This differs from safe mode, where the operating system limits user operations. In safe mode, people can do things like rolling back installations to address system conflicts, removing malware, and so forth. People can access safe mode by hitting F8 while booting up. This will bring up a prompt menu asking what mode the user would like to boot in. After shutting down, the computer will boot normally.


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