kiosk mode (Windows assigned access)

Kiosk mode is a Windows operating system (OS) feature that only allows one application to run.

Kiosk mode is a common way to lock down a Windows device when that device is used for a specific task or used in a public setting. For example, kiosk mode can lock down a point-of-sale (POS) application to prevent customers -- or even bored employees -- from tabbing out of the application and browsing other apps, closing important tools or otherwise disrupting the intended use of the computer.  In a computer store, kiosk mode can provide customers access to a demonstration application while locking down everything else. Kiosk mode is available in Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8, though later versions such as Windows 8.1 refer to this feature as "assigned access."

Older operating systems like Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 require changes to the Windows Registry to invoke kiosk mode. These changes can be made with tools like regedit.exe or regedt32.exe and include defining the application being enabled and any startup string. Registry changes require some expertise on the part of the administrator setting up the kiosk computer, and improper registry edits can render the computer unbootable.

Windows 8.1 can invoke a kiosk mode by setting up "assigned access" when managing user accounts, which is considerably easier and less error-prone than registry changes. In addition, Windows 8.1 can opt to automatically log into assigned access mode so that the kiosk mode will automatically restart if the system reboots. Other users can sign out of the assigned access mode by rebooting the computer and signing in with another (non-kiosk) account.

Assigned access can also be disabled by rebooting the computer, managing user accounts and opting not to use assigned access as a kiosk user account restriction. The computer will generally need to be restarted anytime changes are made to user account configurations.

Kiosk functionality and security can also be invoked using third-party software products like Kioware, KioskSimple for Windows or SiteKiosk 8. Third-party tools are typically employed for traditional self-standing public kiosk systems, while the native Windows kiosk or assigned access modes are suited for internal business or basic public computer deployments.

Kiosk mode is also a slideshow mode in PowerPoint that allows a slideshow to run in a continuous loop. 

This was last updated in December 2014

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