[Added 2007-07-02, 16:41 Eastern Time:  I was thoroughly and inexcusably remiss in failing to include a reference to Michael Murgolo's excellent TechNet Magazine article, Script Elevation PowerToys for Windows Vista.  I'm rectifying that now.]

As I mentioned recently, although the RunAs.exe console utility still exists on Windows Vista and will let you run a program as another user, it will not run that program with elevated privileges. So if you use RunAs.exe to start a program with an administrator account, the program will run with that account's profile and settings, but with standard user privileges only, not with the power to do computer administration. You can't get an application to run with elevated privileges unless you go through the UAC elevation prompt. And RunAs.exe on Windows Vista (RTM, anyway) will not invoke that prompt.

What if you have batch files for XP or Server 2003 that called RunAs when administrative tasks needed to be performed? E.g., say there's a line in your batch file to start CMD.EXE with elevated permissions that looks like this:

runas /u:Administrator "cmd.exe /t:fc /k cd /d c:\ && title *** Admin console *** "

Is there another way to script the "run this program with elevated permissions" that RunAs gave you on XP/2003? Yes. First, create a small script file called "elevate.js" and put it in a folder in your PATH. (*) The contents of elevate.js should look like this:

// elevate.js -- runs target command line elevated
if (WScript.Arguments.Length >= 1) {
    Application = WScript.Arguments(0);
    Arguments = "";
    for (Index = 1; Index < WScript.Arguments.Length; Index += 1) {
        if (Index > 1) {
            Arguments += " ";
        }
        Arguments += WScript.Arguments(Index);
    }
    new ActiveXObject("Shell.Application").ShellExecute(Application, Arguments, "", "runas");
} else {
    WScript.Echo("Usage:");
    WScript.Echo("elevate Application Arguments");
}

Then replace "runas /u:Administrator" with "elevate": (**)

elevate cmd.exe "/t:fc /k cd /d c:\ && title *** Admin console *** "

Important note: the elevate.js script invokes the UAC prompt, but it will not let you bypass it. User interaction is still required.

With the default settings, the elevation prompt will prompt you for simple consent (click "continue") if you are a member of the Administrators group, and prompt you for admin credentials if you are running as a standard user. If you are a member of the Administrators group, but would like to use a different account for the elevated task, you can change the computer's security policy for the behavior of the elevation prompt for admins to "Prompt for credentials". When the prompt appears, you can enter the credentials of a different administrative account.

Thanks to John Stephens of the Windows team for this script.

(*)  I highly recommend that scripts and other programs that may be used by elevated apps or are part of elevation sequences be kept in a folder that standard users cannot write to. I have a Utilities folder under %ProgramFiles% for this purpose.

(**)  Note that the quoting in this case needed to be rearranged a little as well: the first item passed to the script is the application to elevate; everything after that forms the rest of the command line for that application. If the quoting had been kept as-is, Windows would have tried to elevate an application called "cmd.exe /t:fc /k …", which doesn't exist. The quotes are still needed here so that the "&&" and everything after it remain on the command line to the elevated application. Otherwise the current command shell will parse it as part of the command it is running.