The Windows operating system ships with options to run custom files or programs on startup.
That's good on the one hand as it enables users of the operating system to select programs that they want to start with Windows. It is also required for some programs, for instance security software as it is usually necessary that these programs start as early as possible.
But it is also a big nuisance as programs can be added to the startup during installations or even on start.
Since this is often not communicated properly to the user, may not only delay system start but also mean that programs that may not be needed all the time are run all the time.
While you can use a program like the excellent Autoruns to manage all startup locations, you sometimes may need direct access to them, for instance when you want to add a program of your own to the startup.
First time users may be overwhelmed by the sheer number of autostart locations -- both as folders on a drive and in the Windows Registry -- and it may take a long time to go through the listing the first time you open it.
Part of why the system is quite complex is the fact that Windows maintains autostart entries for individual users and all users on the system, and if a 64-bit version of Windows is used, another exclusive for 64-bit versions.
Windows Automatic Startup Locations can be divided into the three groups folders, Registry and scheduled Tasks for the most part even though you may also use the Group Policy to add autostart programs to the system (which are reflected in the Windows Registry however).
The following locations are ideal when it comes to adding custom programs to the autostart. Also, it is rather easy to remove program and shortcuts from those autostart folders.
To make things easier, Microsoft has added keywords for the folders which help you open them quickly. The locations / keywords open the same folder.
Autostart folder of the current user
Autostart folder of all users
The bulk of autostart locations is found in the Windows Registry. You probably know how to load the Registry editor but if you don't, here is how it is done:
Run keys (individual user)
Run keys (machine, all users)
Other autostart keys
Active Setup has been designed to execute commands once per user during logon.
Undocumented autostart feature.
Shell related autostart entries, e.g. items displayed when you right-click on files or folders.
The following keys specify drivers that get loaded during startup.
Misc Startup keys
The Group Policy editor is only available on professional versions of Windows while the Registry keys associated with policies are available on all versions.
Navigate to the following keys using the tree structure on the left to check, modify, add or remove entries using policies.
The corresponding Registry keys are:
You can open the Windows Task Scheduler to manage tasks on the Windows operating system:
You may check out tasks using Windows Explorer / File Explorer as well.
The following files can be used to autostart programs on Windows start:
The following resources provide you with additional information about specific Registry keys.
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