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The quest for su on Windows

von | Feb 8, 2018 | Betriebssysteme, Windows

“How to run cmd as different user?” I type into Google. When I search for full sentences instead of just keywords I must be very desperate. Violet links everywhere, I feel like I have tried everything and nothing works. What I want is something like “su”, temporarily changing the current user sounds like a very important thing to be able to do when one administrates Windows. So why is it not that simple?
There is a command called “RunAs”, sounds good, right? Just give the user and command you want to use and you are set! Just make sure you have the right permissions. But problems start with the username since Windows is localized. Sometimes English names work, sometimes you need to use “NT-AUTORITÄT\Netzwekdienst” instead of “NT AUTHORITY\Network Service”. RunAs is one of the latter. Except all of this does not matter since you need a password and system accounts tend to not have one. Bummer.

Notice the differences in the output between the English and German username


Without knowledge of Windows inner workings, I blame the lack of quality free material on the topic, I’m left to googling around until I find a 10 year old blog post or forum entry which solves the exact problem I’m having. And I did find something, it’s not even that old. PsExec is a tool which does exactly what I want! So I install the package, edit my path, run the program… and it just works! With English usernames even. (After I used the -accepteula flag, because for some reason it would not work without when running the first time).

It just works!


Working with Windows often feels to me like piloting a military submarine, not because it’s so advanced, but because I often have no idea what I am doing, the manual is in Russian and clicking the wrong button may or may not make a large strip of land uninhabitable for decades. Trial and error seems to be the way to go for most problems and that’s frustrating. So I hope if somebody else finds themselves in the unknown waters of the Windows user system, this blog post can help.

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