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Creating a Process with Medium Integration Level from the Process with High Integration Level in Vista

, 26 Jan 2008 CPOL 45.5K 590 28
This tip suggests the way of launching a process with Medium IL from the process with High IL.
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Since Windows Vista introduced process integration level (IL), it sometimes is highly desired to be specified when creating a new process. This tip suggests the way of launching a process with Medium IL from the process with High IL.


There are the several reasons to specify IL explicitly when launching a new process.

  • The most common task is to launch the application at the end of the installation. It’s usual for an application to be executed without elevation, but installer always runs with High IL, therefore the child process will start with the same (High) IL, unless additional enforcement is specified by a developer.
  • If a part of the application is loaded as DLL into explorer.exe, it’s required for the application to execute with the same IL as explorer.exe.
  • If an application consists of a number of processes which sends messages to each others, all the processes must have the same IL.
  • If an application connects to the object in ROT, it must have the same IL as the server which registered the object.

There are some solutions for this problem. Kenny Kerr in his article Windows Vista for Developers – A New Series suggests to create a new token and correct the elevation level for it, however this is not a complete solution because the set of privileges will still correspond to the set of the parent process. Also, the created process doesn't refer to ROT correctly.

The most correct way is explained in the following articles:

However, this way requires to utilize an external DLL (one DLL for 32-bits caller and another one DLL for 64-bits caller).


This tip suggests a direct way of launching a process with Medium IL from the process with High IL. In Vista, the function looks up for explorer and gets a token to its process. Then, the token is duplicated, and its privileges are adjusted. Finally, it's passed to CreateProcessWithTokenW function. In the other OS, it simply starts a new process using CreateProcess().

This is explained step-by-step below.


HRESULT CreateProcessWithExplorerIL(LPWSTR szProcessName, LPWSTR szCmdLine)

BOOL bRet;
HANDLE hToken;
HANDLE hNewToken;

bool bVista=false;
{ // When the function is called from IS12, GetVersionEx returns dwMajorVersion=5 on Vista!
    HMODULE hmodKernel32=LoadLibrary(L"Kernel32");
    if(hmodKernel32 && GetProcAddress(hmodKernel32, "GetProductInfo"))
    if(hmodKernel32) FreeLibrary(hmodKernel32);

STARTUPINFO StartupInfo = {0};


1. Obtain a handle Shell Window and obtain the ID of its process (explorer.exe)


HWND hwndShell=::FindWindow( _T("Progman"), NULL);
    GetWindowThreadProcessId(hwndShell, &dwExplorerID);

hr=GetProcessIL(dwExplorerID, &dwExplorerIL);
    hr=GetProcessIL(GetCurrentProcessId(), &dwCurIL);

2. Get the token of the process

        HANDLE hProcess=OpenProcess(PROCESS_ALL_ACCESS, FALSE, dwExplorerID);
            if(OpenProcessToken(hProcess, TOKEN_ALL_ACCESS, &hToken))

3. Duplicate the token

                if(!DuplicateTokenEx(hToken, TOKEN_ALL_ACCESS, NULL,
                    SecurityImpersonation, TokenPrimary, &hNewToken))

4. Modify the set of privileges by removing/disabling the privileges which doesn’t relay to a process with Medium IL

                    if(dwCurIL==SECURITY_MANDATORY_MEDIUM_RID && 

5. Creating new process using CreateProcessWithTokenW

                        typedef BOOL (WINAPI *LPFN_CreateProcessWithTokenW)(
                            HANDLE hToken,
                            DWORD dwLogonFlags,
                            LPCWSTR lpApplicationName,
                            LPWSTR lpCommandLine,
                            DWORD dwCreationFlags,
                            LPVOID lpEnvironment,
                            LPCWSTR lpCurrentDirectory,
                            LPSTARTUPINFOW lpStartupInfo,
                            LPPROCESS_INFORMATION lpProcessInfo
                        LPFN_CreateProcessWithTokenW fnCreateProcessWithTokenW=NULL;
                        HINSTANCE hmodAdvApi32=LoadLibraryA("AdvApi32");
                            GetProcAddress(hmodAdvApi32, "CreateProcessWithTokenW");
                            bRet=fnCreateProcessWithTokenW(hNewToken, 0, 
                                szProcessName, szCmdLine, 
                                0, NULL, NULL, &StartupInfo, &ProcInfo);


                }//if (DuplicateTokenEx(...)

if(SUCCEEDED(hr) && !ProcInfo.dwProcessId)
{// 2K | XP | Vista & !UAC
    bRet = CreateProcess(szProcessName, szCmdLine, 
        NULL, NULL, FALSE, 0, NULL, NULL, &StartupInfo, &ProcInfo);
}// 2K | XP | Vista & !UAC

return hr;

Using the Code

Using the code is very simple. Just copy the code into your project and call CreateProcessWithExplorerIL().

CreateProcessWithExplorerIL(L"C:\\Program Files\\Microsoft Visual Studio\\Common\\
Tools\\irotview.exe", NULL);


This function cannot be used in service processes as finding shell window will fail. In this case, the ID of shell process should be obtained using another way. Moreover, there may be several explorer.exe processes.
The parent of the created process will be taskmgr.exe, but not the caller process.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Volirvag Yexela
Software Developer
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Comments and Discussions

QuestionHow to run Pin
isaprgmr16-Oct-12 20:30
memberisaprgmr16-Oct-12 20:30 
QuestionThis works well. Thank you. Pin
flobadob197521-Sep-12 2:44
memberflobadob197521-Sep-12 2:44 
GeneralMethod that doesn't require injection or process token changes Pin
Leo Davidson24-Feb-10 2:02
memberLeo Davidson24-Feb-10 2:02 
GeneralRe: Method that doesn't require injection or process token changes Pin
Gif13-Jul-11 20:55
memberGif13-Jul-11 20:55 
GeneralLaunching this from a dll Pin
Yusuf Cinar5-Feb-10 9:29
memberYusuf Cinar5-Feb-10 9:29 
I added this into a standard dll and tried to call it from InstallShield using DoAction upon user clicking OK-Finish at the end of install. However, it prompts an error "Unknown source 'c$'" and the log shows the following. When I launch the dll custom action in the Executionj Sequence it works, but I dont really understand why dll doesnt work when launched as a DoAction at Finish. I will try creating an exe with the same code and launch an exe custom action instead of dll one.

I would appreciate any input. Thanks.

Action ended 19:14:01: DLLWrapCleanup. Return value 1.
MSI (c) (BC:68) [19:14:01:576]: Doing action: SetupCompleteSuccess
Action start 19:14:01: SetupCompleteSuccess.
MSI (c) (BC:10) [19:14:03:451]: PROPERTY CHANGE: Adding LAUNCHPROGRAM property. Its value is '1'.
MSI (c) (BC:10) [19:14:04:357]: Doing action: LaunchwithToken2
Action start 19:14:04: LaunchwithToken2.
MSI (c) (BC:10) [19:14:04:373]: Invoking remote custom action. DLL: C:\DOCUME~1\fbaggins\LOCALS~1\Temp\MSI4FD.tmp, Entrypoint: DLL2
Action ended 19:14:13: LaunchwithToken2. Return value 3.
Info 2896.Executing action LaunchwithToken2 failed.
Action ended 19:14:13: SetupCompleteSuccess. Return value 3.
GeneralRe: Launching this from a dll Pin
Yusuf Cinar5-Feb-10 15:09
memberYusuf Cinar5-Feb-10 15:09 
NewsSIX bugs in your code !! Pin
Elmue7-Nov-09 16:37
memberElmue7-Nov-09 16:37 
NewsHere the cleaned and bugfixed code Pin
Elmue8-Nov-09 6:52
memberElmue8-Nov-09 6:52 
GeneralRe: Here the cleaned and bugfixed code Pin
Brunhilde8-Nov-09 8:07
memberBrunhilde8-Nov-09 8:07 
GeneralRe: Here the cleaned and bugfixed code Pin
flamierd15-Feb-11 6:40
memberflamierd15-Feb-11 6:40 
GeneralRe: Here the cleaned and bugfixed code - still errors (leaked handles) Pin
patzw27-May-11 6:41
memberpatzw27-May-11 6:41 
GeneralRe: Closing handles Pin
Elmue27-May-11 18:13
memberElmue27-May-11 18:13 
NewsRe: Here the cleaned and bugfixed code Pin
Member 82097377-Nov-11 22:56
memberMember 82097377-Nov-11 22:56 
GeneralVista don't allow AppInit_Dlls to inject Pin
sunil_20084-Sep-09 20:46
membersunil_20084-Sep-09 20:46 
QuestionGood job, can this be done even better? Pin
Ellery Pierce13-Aug-08 19:23
memberEllery Pierce13-Aug-08 19:23 
GeneralThank you very much Pin
JuanT25-Jul-08 1:40
memberJuanT25-Jul-08 1:40 
GeneralGood solution Pin
FaxedHead28-May-08 21:52
memberFaxedHead28-May-08 21:52 

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