Schedule computer for auto-play

These are my quick notes with instructions, tips, links, etc I used to install a program and run it continuously for more than a year on a computer.

There are already similar articles online for MacOS and PC:

This article describes my set up for a specific context on a PC running Windows 7.

The requirements

Hardware & software

The computer and the display are recycled from the hospital's hardware stock. The PC (HP) has a clean install of WIndows 7. The IT staff of the hospital removed all possible remaining data from the PC and made it impossible to connect to the secured network of the hospital.

Content first: the animation

Time (uz), 2017

More about the animation 'Time'

Rather obvious, but still noteworthy: first of all I made sure the animation was ready. It is made with Flash and exported as a .exe file with an embed of a necessary Flashplayer. This avoids the need to install a Flash player on the PC.

The animation is set to run full screen, hide the mouse pointer and any (Flash)menu. I also made the animation automatically close itself, like around 5 minutes before the computer will be turned off. This is to avoid any annoying messages about programs closing unexpectedly.

Clean up desktop

I want a complete empty desktop with no icons to any file or program. If by accident, the animation stops running, and only the desktop is visible, I want to show at least some kind of pretty image to look at.

The cleaned computer already had an almost empty desktop. I only had to remove the Recycle Bin icon from desktop:

Here is the how-to: Hide, delete or destroy the recycle bin icon in Windows

Hiding the taskbar/dock in Windows 7 via the Control panel still leaves visible a very slight light grey line at the bottom of the screen.
An easy way to get rid of 1 pixel border: adjust settings of standalone screen:
see: How to remove taskbar border aut hide

There are other solutions, but I prefer to avoid installing extra apps or fiddling around with registry: see: Shybar (app), Hide taskbar hotkey, Task homie (app), Make it totally disappear, How to remove a taskbar

Start the animation automatically when computer starts up

Whenever the computer is turned on, it should automatically start the full screen animation without delay.

This is quite easy to do on Windows 7:

See: How to Make a Program Run at Startup on Any Computer

Stop the animation automatically before shutdown of the computer

The animation already exits itself. But I am not sure if this really stops the whole program. It might be that the exit command in Actionscript only stops the swf file, and not the Flashplayer? So I also created a basic task in Task scheduler to stop the program before shutdown of the computer to avoid annoying notification windows after reboot.

see: How to close/exit some program using Task Scheduler in Windows 7

Shutdown the computer daily

I want the computer to shutdown completely every day. This is to avoid possible problems that might occur from running a flash file on a computer endlessly. (Memory leaks, etc...) It is also a good practice to save energy. No need to run anything during the night or when no people are present. Lights out! This again can be done with the Windows Task Scheduler.


Automatically start the computer daily in the morning

This seems only possible by changing a few things in the BIOS of the computer. (F10 during start-up) I could access the BIOS, but it was locked with a password for obvious security reasons. The IT people of the hospital unlocked it for me. I followed this guide and found the necessary settings under a Power-On labelled menu item, even if the BIOS on the HP looked a bit different:

see: How to Make Your Windows 7 System Startup And Shutdown On A Schedule

Make sure the computer also restarts automatically after power off

This can happen easier than you might think. The computer will be set up in a room next to the exhibition space (the waiting room). There will be a day when somebody, for some reason will have a need to pull out the plug of the computer without realising that the display went black. Again I had to go into the BIOS.

Under advanced I found the item: "power after power loss" and set it to "on". When I tested, a black screen with white text appeared for a while (20sec) that gave you a multiple choice to reboot the computer. It automatically was set to 'Start Windows normally".

This is fine, but maybe there is a way to immediately reboot normally and skip this window?

There where no other notification windows after reboot.

see: Windows 7: How to get auto restart after power outage?

Other settings

The following minor settings are however not to be forgotten: (More details later)

Author: Hans Verhaegen, Brussels, 2017