RUNAS Command – Run control panel tasks with administrative rights

What is RUNAS?

RUNAS command allows administrators to run a command, or an application under a different account’s privilege. Usually, the RUNAS command is used when a network operator or administrator need to do some admin tasks on a machine while an end user is logged in. The quickest way to do an admin task is to log off the current user, but it does not sound professional and convenient for the end users.

For example, we just need to clear the ARP cache on a machine, or execute the IPCONFIG command, RUNAS could help. For more advanced tasks, such as adding a new printer, configuring network interface, or running a control panel applet, RUNAS the whole explorer.exe process will help.

RUNAS could even help you to switch the background system process to a new user account without loosing the current user’s work space. If you want to ignore the basic information of RUNAS command, click here to redirect to RUNAS explorer.exe. RUNAS explorer.exe gives you full administrative functions without logging off current user.

RUNAS Command Syntax

RUNAS Command Syntax

C:\>runas /?

RUNAS [ [/noprofile | /profile] [/env] [/savecred | /netonly] ]
/user:<UserName> program

RUNAS [ [/noprofile | /profile] [/env] [/savecred] ]
/smartcard [/user:<UserName>] program

RUNAS /trustlevel:<TrustLevel> program

/noprofile specifies that the user’s profile should not be loaded.
This causes the application to load more quickly, but
can cause some applications to malfunction.
/profile specifies that the user’s profile should be loaded.
This is the default.
/env to use current environment instead of user’s.
/netonly use if the credentials specified are for remote
access only.
/savecred to use credentials previously saved by the user.
This option is not available on Windows 7 Home or Windows 7 Starter Editions
and will be ignored.
/smartcard use if the credentials are to be supplied from a
/user <UserName> should be in form [email protected] or DOMAIN\USER
/showtrustlevels displays the trust levels that can be used as arguments
to /trustlevel.
/trustlevel <Level> should be one of levels enumerated
in /showtrustlevels.
program command line for EXE. See below for examples

> runas /noprofile /user:mymachine\administrator cmd
> runas /profile /env /user:mydomain\admin “mmc %windir%\system32\dsa.msc”
> runas /env /user:[email protected] “notepad \”my file.txt\””

NOTE: Enter user’s password only when prompted.
NOTE: /profile is not compatible with /netonly.
NOTE: /savecred is not compatible with /smartcard.

The fastest way to efficiently use any Windows command line is to call it with /? parameter. The /? will show all available options of that command. Practicing Windows command line frequently will help you to smoothly manage your system from a remote terminal.

To use RUNAS, you need to have an account with administrative rights, the name or the full path of the application you want to run.

The simplest way to use RUNAS with shortest effort is

RUNAS /user:[email protected] application-name
Common error message
1326: Logon failure: unknown user name or bad password.

The reason for this error message 1326 could be: you typed wrong password, or you specified wrong account base.

Please note that [email protected] is a domain account, or you could type DOMAIN\username. For example, if my DNS Domain is, my NetBIOS Domain Name is PLAINTUTS, and my username is haonguyen, the RUNAS command could be

RUNAS / cmd


RUNAS /user:PLAINTUTS\haonguyen cmd

If you just type RUNAS /user:haonguyen cmd, the RUNAS command will ask for the password of the account haonguyen on the local machine, not from the domain.
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RUNAS Command Examples

To efficiently use the RUNAS  command, it’s better to call a new Command Prompt window under your administrative account. You could use this special command prompt window to execute any future commands.

RUNAS a new Command Prompt window

RUNAS /user:[email protected] cmd

Where FQDN is the Fully Qualified Domain Name, e.g You have the option to use NetBIOS Domain Name, such as PLAINTUT\username in this case.

A new command prompt will open with full administrative rights. From here, you could execute any commands you want. But there are some limitations, such as no access to printer settings or network settings.

You might have the need to install a new printer drivers, or make some changes in network interfaces, or any requests that the RUNAS command prompt could not provide. To fulfill this need, you need to RUNAS the whole explorer.exe process.

Windows 7 RUNAS
If your end user is using Windows 7, you do not need to use RUNAS to execute the command prompt window. To run an administrative command prompt on Windows 7, just right click on the shortcut of Windows Command Prompt, select Run as administrator from the pop-up menu.

Windows 7 also supports RUNAS command mode.

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RUNAS explorer.exe process without logging off the current user

The process explorer.exe provides some built-in features of Windows. This process could be killed, and RUNAS under another account with different rights without closing the running applications on that computer. To RUNAS explorer.exe process, follow these steps:

  1. Kill explorer.exe process
  2. Runas explorer.exe process under your account
  3. Log off your session
  4. Runas explorer.exe process under end user’s account

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Step 1. Kill explorer.exe process

Using Task Manager to kill the process explorer.exe. At this moment, you should see this process is running under end user’s account.

Kill explorer.exe process using Task Manager

  • Click End Task to kill the explorer.exe process.

Don’t panic. After the process explorer.exe is killed, your task bar disappears, you could have a blank screen. Some basic functions of Windows are still working, such as ALT-TAB to switch between applications.
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Continue to page 2 for more steps

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About The Author

Hao Nguyen

Hao Nguyen

Hello! I'm Hao Nguyen and I'm currently working as a Network Engineer for a small firm in Houston. I enjoy writing technical documents and blog, such as


  1. Major thanks for the article post.Really looking forward to read more.

  2. Tri Pham says:

    From one Vietnamese to another. Great blog. Thanks for writing these tutorials.

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