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Interact With Desktop when Installing Windows Service

, 31 Aug 2003
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This article will describe how to set the "Allow Service to Interact With Desktop" on a windows service created in .NET


In this article I explain how to set the "Allow Interact with Desktop" parameter when installing a .Net Windows Service.


I have written many windows services and it always bothered me and my colleagues that the ServiceInstaller class used to install to install Windows services does not give you the ability to set the "Allow Interact with Desktop" attribute for the service. I am assuming that Microsoft left this out for a reason, overlooked it, or is planning it for future releases. As the framework stands now, if you need desktop interaction, you have to either code the service setting into your installation program (WISE, InstallSheild, IndigoRose, etc) or manually set it after the service is installed. To my dismay I could not find any references to this issue on CodeProject or any of the other websites. With no information and no built in functionality, the gauntlet had been laid. The answer is extremely simple, but somehow eluding.

Using the code

Shown below is a copy of a ServiceInstaller constructor method. You will notice I have created the ServiceInstaller and the ServiceProcessInstaller and configured them like normal. To set the "Interact with Desktop" attribute, we have to manually edit the service in the registry. This has to be done after adding the ServiceInstaller and the ServiceProcessInstaller to the Installers container. At this point the registry entries for the service have been created and now we just need to modify the "Type" registry value under the services subkey. The "Type" value is a DWORD or blittable to an int in C#. This integer is used to store different attributes about the service. If the "Type" value is viewed in Hex, the third bit is the "Interact with Desktop" bit. To flip this bit we need to a bitwise OR on the value like so:

10h in decimal is 16
100h in decimal is 256

00010h OR 00100h = 00110h (Here the third digit is flipped )

...or in decimal it is:
16 OR 256 = 272 

I only mention decimal because it is easier to OR the values as decimals. Below you will see the code to do all this. A 8 line solution that is worth a million. Have fun and hopefully this article will keep others like myself from pulling their hair out over such a simple problem. All the services are in the registry under the following key:


public WindowsServiceInstaller()
  // This call is required by the Designer.
  ServiceInstaller si = new ServiceInstaller();
  si.ServiceName = "WindowsService1"; 
  si.DisplayName = "WindowsService1";
  si.StartType = ServiceStartMode.Manual;
  ServiceProcessInstaller spi = new ServiceProcessInstaller();
  spi.Account = System.ServiceProcess.ServiceAccount.LocalSystem; 
  spi.Password = null;
  spi.Username = null;
  // Here is where we set the bit on the value in the registry.
  // Grab the subkey to our service
  RegistryKey ckey = Registry.LocalMachine.OpenSubKey(
    @"SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\WindowsService1", true);
  // Good to always do error checking!
  if(ckey != null)
    // Ok now lets make sure the "Type" value is there, 
    //and then do our bitwise operation on it.
    if(ckey.GetValue("Type") != null)
      ckey.SetValue("Type", ((int)ckey.GetValue("Type") | 256));


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About the Author

Robert H. Davis II

United States United States
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Comments and Discussions

GeneralRe: The right way to do it PinmemberGennadiy Sterin15-Mar-04 5:19 
GeneralRe: The right way to do it Pinmembercodeshasyou18-Oct-05 22:50 
GeneralRe: The right way to do it PinmemberRichNFamous17-Mar-06 2:46 
GeneralRe: The right way to do it PinmemberWe1rd0 Pr0grammer23-Mar-06 17:55 
I got it to work and converted it to VB.Net in the process.
If you use the AfterInstall event the install rolls back but the service still runs. Next I tried the Committing event and found it to work without rolling back or errors.
Here is my VB code.   I made a class called ServiceOptions to make give the ability to use it with more than one service.
Imports System.Management            '-- This must be added as a Reference in VB first.
Partial Public Class ProjectInstaller
   Private Sub EchoServiceInstaller_Committing(ByVal sender As Object, _
                        ByVal e As System.Configuration.Install.InstallEventArgs) _
                  Handles EchoServiceInstaller.Committing
         '--   NOTE:   EchoServiceController is simply an instance of the ServiceController class
         '--            that I use to start the service during installation.
         '--      Use the variable name of the ServiceController that you have defined for your
         '--      service.
      End Try
   End Sub
End Class
Public Class ServiceOptions
   Public Shared Function InteractWithDesktop( ByVal serviceController As _
                                    System.ServiceProcess.ServiceController) As String
      InteractWithDesktop = InteractWithDesktop(serviceController, False)
   End Function
   Public Shared Function InteractWithDesktop(ByVal serviceController As _
            System.ServiceProcess.ServiceController, ByVal startService As Boolean) As String
      Dim returnValue As String = ""
         Dim coOptions As ConnectionOptions = New ConnectionOptions
         coOptions.Impersonation = ImpersonationLevel.Impersonate
         Dim mgmtScope As ManagementScope = New ManagementScope("root\CIMV2", coOptions)
         Dim wmiService As ManagementObject = Nothing
         wmiService = New ManagementObject( _
                           "Win32_Service.Name='" & serviceController.ServiceName & "'")
         Dim InParam As ManagementBaseObject = wmiService.GetMethodParameters("Change")
         InParam("DesktopInteract") = CObj(True)
         Dim OutParam As ManagementBaseObject = _
                  wmiService.InvokeMethod("Change", InParam, Nothing)
         If (startService = True) Then
         End If
      Catch ex As Exception
         ReturnValue = ex.ToString
      End Try
      Return returnValue
   End Function
End Class
Hope this helps,
-sng Smile | :)
-- modified at 0:37 Thursday 20th April, 2006

GeneralRe: The right way to do it PinmemberRichNFamous27-Mar-06 8:39 
GeneralRe: The right way to do it Pinmemberjvargasr28-Apr-06 10:52 
GeneralRe: The right way to do it PinmemberBhargavaJK30-Jul-06 23:12 
GeneralRe: The right way to do it PinmemberSavan Gandhi17-Dec-07 0:41 
GeneralRe: The right way to do it Pinmembercweaver12-Sep-06 21:09 
GeneralRe: The right way to do it PinmemberLucidObscurity21-Sep-06 16:21 

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