Be sure to read the introduction on the startup and shutdown screens and how to create an installer here before starting this tutorial. I would highly recommend using the XrX AddBar 2 if possible, since it's much easier to use than version 1. It's also much easier than doing the screens manually.
Manual Screens & Add Bar version 1
Windows startup and shutdown screens are really bitmap files saved as 256 indexed color. They are very easy to make. Here are the steps for creating a startup and/or shutdown screen.
After replacing the original Windows files, restart your computer to make sure everything works as it should.
Animating a startup screen is not true animation. It is palette animation. What you will be doing is adding a moving bar at the bottom of your screen like Windows has on its startup screen.
First, you will need a couple of programs. The first is xrx Add Bar. This program is free, but the author has a shareware program that goes with this so you can see your animation. Right now the author has version 2 upgrade out. These are the instructions for the older version. In the new version you do not need to resize the graphics, you can choose to install the logos, and the bar is dithered. The program will also leave room for the animation bar at the bottom and give you a small non-animated preview in the beta. You can go to the author's site here to download the newer version of AddBar. These instructions are for the old version. You will also need an image editing program such as Paint Shop Pro. It is actually easier to accomplish these steps in Paint Shop Pro or PhotoImpact than it is in Photoshop, so these directions will apply to using Paint Shop Pro. PhotoImpact is similar and, in my opinion, it is the best value for the money, but lots of people have PSP, so I've used it here.
Go to Paint Shop Pro website. Go to the PhotoImpact website.
Begin with a standard sized bitmap (such as 640x480) saved in RBG format. The first thing you are going to do is resize the image to a skewed size that Windows can use. Resize your image to 320 pixels wide by 400 pixels high. You will have to uncheck the "maintain aspect ratio" box. When you are done your image should look extremely unpleasant :).
Now you need to decrease the color depth of your image to one that Windows can use. Windows requires a bitmap saved in 256 indexed color to work as a startup screen, but you are only going to do part of this since the XRX Add Bar program will do the indexing. You are going to save the bitmap with 236 colors in RBG mode. The XRX Add Bar program will add the animation and then save the program as indexed color.
Do not save your image in indexed color format or the Add Bar program will not work. It won't even load your file. The reason you need to save the image with 236 colors is because the animation bar uses 20 colors. The Add Bar program would load and animate an image saved with 256 colors (as long as it was saved as an RBG image), but the animation bar would be forced to use colors that are in your image. That would make all 20 colors throughout the image animate. If you do NOT want to animate your startup screen, you would save your bitmap as 256 indexed color at 400x320 pixels.
So, here is what you do. You have your sqewed image. Now, in Paint Shop Pro, you are going to go to "Colors/Decrease Color Depth/X colors." If your "X colors" option is deactivated, you are using an image with the colors reduced already. You will need to resave your image as an RBG with the full color spectrum.
Now you will be taken to the color reduction window. Change the colors in your image to 236.
Start the XRX Add Bar program. Enter the RBG values of your two colors as shown in the illustration. The color bar will give you an idea of what the animation will look like. After you have your colors, click on the box to the right of "filename" to choose the image you want to animate. You will have the ability to browse to the directory where you have your image. Double click on the image name and you will see it entered in the filename window as shown. If the file you want to animate will not load, it means that there is something wrong with your file. Either it isn't saved in 320x400 pixels, or it isn't saved in 236 color RGB.
Now your image has been saved with an animated palette. xrx Add Bar will not change the name. If you started out with "enter.bmp" you will still have a file named "enter.bmp". You can no longer open, change or resave your image. If you do, you will save your image with a static color bar on the bottom. It will no longer be animated.
Now you need to rename your image so it will work with Windows. Be sure to save or rename your original files in case you want them back. If you accidentlly overwrite the original files, don't panic. You can get them on the help page. Here are the naming schemes that Windows uses:
Now it's time to make sure everything works right. You will need to restart your computer to view your new startup screen in action.
Hopefully, everything works fine. But if it doesn't, here is the most common error and how to solve it. If you start your computer and the image bar is animating just fine, but so is the rest of the image, either the image wasn't using a 236 palette when you added the animation, or it was using a palette that was not usable. The empty palette spaces need to be at the end of the palette. Originally, I was doing this in Photoshop and having this error. I was reducing the colors, but it wasn't in the proper format. I switched to Paint Shop Pro and it worked just fine. So if you are using Photoshop or another high end graphics program, try using Paint Shop Pro and see if that solves your problem.
The other common error is that the bar is at the bottom, but it isn't animated. If this is happening you probably resaved your bitmap after the animation was added.
Neat Freeware Tools
If you will be creating themes for distribution, there is a great freeware program available that will create a self-extracting file for your logo files AND make backups of the original. It's very easy to use. Click the button to download the program (203k).
There is also another neat program by the same author. It creates a self-install of any font you want included with your theme. You just drag a font file on top of the program's exe file and it creates the exe file. Very simple, small, and handy tool! Click here to download (18k).
Check out this site for a neat freeware startup and shutdown organizer. Win Logo Changer