Back to Basics: Windows Shutdown Autostart explained

Martin Brinkmann
Aug 19, 2019

Windows supports autostart functionality; the autostart on startup feature is the better known variant but there is also an option to autostart on shutdown.

Some programs add entries to the autostart list when they are installed. Programs like antivirus and security software may add entries so that they are launched as early as possible on the Windows PC.

Windows administrators may configure devices running Windows to run certain programs or scripts during shutdown as well. Examples include running a script to clear temporary folders or the browsing history on the device, backing up certain files, delaying the shutdown of the system, or adding entries to log files.

The caveats

The autostart of programs or scripts during shutdown of the system has two caveats that need to be mentioned. First, that the functionality is only found in professional or Enterprise editions of Windows and not in Home versions, and second, that the scripts or programs are run on every shutdown or restart.

The autostart entries are run each time, e.g. after installing updates that require a restart or installing a program that requires a restart to finalize the installation.

The shutdown

windows tutorial shutdown autostart

The shutdown of the system begins with the termination of running (user) processes and signing out of the user. System processes are shut down after that first phase, and the device is turned off or restarted in the end. Windows supports running tasks in both of the shutdown phases, and both may be configured in the Group Policy Editor.

  • User Configuration > Windows Settings > Scripts (Logon/Logoff) > Logoff
  • Computer Configuration > Windows Settings > Scripts (Startup/Shutdown) > Shutdown

The first policy runs scripts during user log off on the system, the second after the user has been logged out of the system.

The script's purpose determines where you need to add it for execution on shutdown. Scripts that you configure in the user configuration run with the rights of the user. The scripts are started after the termination of running processes including those that run in the system tray or in the background.

Windows displays a blank screen usually when configured scripts are run but it is possible to run scripts with graphical user interfaces that the user may interact with. Scripts are terminated automatically unless configured to do otherwise, e.g. by using the wait command.

display instructions in logoff scripts as they run

You may also configure a policy to display a window when scripts run so that you know what is happening. Enable the policy "Display instructions in logoff scripts as they run" under User Configuration > Administrative Templates > System > Scripts to do so.

A similar option is available for scripts that run in the second phase of shutdown. You find it under Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > System > Scripts; it has the same name as the User Configuration policy: Display instructions in shutdown scripts as they run.

Windows gives the combined scripts 10 minutes (600 seconds) of execution time by default. You can change the interval by configuring "Specify maximum wait time for Group Policy scripts" in the same Computer Configuration policy folder. You may select a range between 0 and 32000 seconds; 0 means that scripts run for as long as they need and that Windows won't interfere. Note that the policy affects startup and shutdown scripts.

Shutdown scripts, those run in the second phase of the shutdown process run when no user is logged in anymore. These scripts run with system rights and not user rights. Administrators need to be aware that referenced user folders in scripts use the folders of the system user.

The shutdown and logoff properties policy windows look identical. Both feature a tab that separates scripts from PowerShell scripts, options to add, edit, remove, and sort scripts, and a button to show files.

shutdown properties

A click on show files opens a script directory on the local system:

  • For Logoff scripts: C:\WINDOWS\System32\GroupPolicy\User\Scripts\Logoff
  • For Shutdown scripts: C:\WINDOWS\System32\GroupPolicy\Machine\Scripts\Shutdown

You may place the scripts that you want executed in those folders; it is no requirement though and you can pick any folder on the system that is accessible during shutdown for storage.  It may nevertheless be a good idea to place scripts in these folders for organizational purposes.

Back to Basics: Windows Shutdown Autostart explained
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Back to Basics: Windows Shutdown Autostart explained
Windows supports autostart functionality; the autostart on startup feature is the better known variant but there is also an option to autostart on shutdown.
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  1. Dan Donx said on January 15, 2023 at 10:29 am

    What mental age of reader are you targeting with the first sentence? 10?

    Why not write an article on how to *avoid* upgrading from W10 to W11. Analogous to those like me who avoided upgrading from 7 to 10 for as long as possible.

    If your paymaster Microsoft permits it, of course.

  2. Dexter said on January 15, 2023 at 11:14 am

    5. Rufus
    6. Ventoy

    PS. I hate reading these “SEO optimized” articles.

    1. cdr said on January 15, 2023 at 3:32 pm

      I used Rufus to create an installer for a 6th gen intel i5 that had MBR. It upgraded using Setup. No issues except for Win 11 always prompting me to replace my local account. Still using Win 10 Pro on all my other PCs to avoid the bullying.

  3. sv said on January 15, 2023 at 6:40 pm

    bit pointless to upgrade for the sake of upgrading as you never know when you’ll get locked out because ms might suddenly not provide updates to unsupported systems.

    ps…. time travelling?
    written. Jan 15, 2023
    Updated • Jan 13, 2023

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 16, 2023 at 5:49 am

      This happens when you schedule a post in WordPress and update it before setting the publication date.

  4. Anonymous said on January 16, 2023 at 8:24 am

    Anyone willing to downgrade to this awful OS must like inflicting themselves with harm.

  5. basingstoke said on January 16, 2023 at 11:18 am

    I have become convinced now that anybody who has no qualms with using Windows 11/10 must fit into one of the following brackets:

    1) Too young to remember a time before W10 and W11 (doesn’t know better)

    2) Wants to play the latest games on their PC above anything else (or deeply needs some software which already dropped W7 support)

    3) Doesn’t know too much about how computers work, worried that they’d be absolutely lost and in trouble without the “”latest security””

    4) Microsoft apologist that tries to justify that the latest “features” and “changes” are actually a good thing, that improve Windows

    5) Uses their computer to do a bare minimum of like 3 different things, browse web, check emails, etc, so really doesn’t fuss

    Obviously that doesn’t cover everyone, there’s also the category that:

    6) Actually liked W7 more than 10, and held out as long as possible before switching, begrudgingly uses 10 now

    Have I missed any group off this list?

    1. Heinz Strunk said on September 19, 2023 at 3:57 pm

      You have missed in this group just about any professional user that uses business software like CAD programs or ERP Programs which are 99% of all professional users from this list.

      Linux doesn’t help anyone who is not a linux kid and apple is just a fancy facebook machine.

  6. ilev said on August 24, 2023 at 7:34 pm

    Microsoft has removed KB5029351 update

    1. EP said on August 24, 2023 at 9:21 pm

      only from windows update though
      KB5029351 is still available from the ms update catalog site

  7. Anonymous said on August 24, 2023 at 11:05 pm

    1. This update is labaled as PREVIEW if it causes issues to unintelligent people, then they shouldn’t have allowed Preview updates ot install.

    2. I have installed it in a 11 years old computer, and no problems at all.

    3. Making a big drama over a bluescreen for an updated labeled as preview is ridiculous.

    This is probably another BS internet drama where people ran programs and scripts that modified the registry until they broke Windows, just for removing stuff that they weren’t even using just for the sake of it.
    Maybe people should stop playing geeks and actually either use Windows 10 or Windows 11, but don’t try to modify things just for the sake of it.

    Sometimes removing or stopping things (like defender is a perfect example) only need intelligence, not scripts or 3rd party programs that might mess with windows.

  8. john said on August 24, 2023 at 11:17 pm

    Windows 11 was a pointless release, it was just created because some of the Windows team wanted to boost sales with some sort of new and improved Windows 10. Instead, Microsoft cannot support one version well let alone two.

    1. John G. said on August 25, 2023 at 12:08 pm

      Windows 11 is the worst ugly shame by Microsoft ever. They should release with every new W11 version a complete free version of Starallback inside just to make this sh** OS functionally again.

  9. EP said on August 25, 2023 at 3:10 pm

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released a statement regarding the “unsupported processor” blue screen error for their boards using Intel 600/700 series chipsets & to avoid the KB5029351 Win11 update:–UNSUPPORTED-PROCESSOR–Error-Message-of-Windows-11-Update-KB5029351-Preview-142215

  10. EP said on August 29, 2023 at 7:32 pm

    check out the following recent articles:

    Neowin – Microsoft puts little blame on its Windows update after UNSUPPORTED PROCESSOR BSOD bug:

    BleepingComputer – Microsoft blames ‘unsupported processor’ blue screens on OEM vendors:

  11. Leonard Britvolli said on August 30, 2023 at 10:33 pm

    While there may be changes or updates to the Windows 10 Store for Business and Education in the future, it is premature to conclude that it will be discontinued based solely on rumors.

  12. sembrador said on September 5, 2023 at 9:32 pm

    My advice, I left win 15 years ago. Now I’m a happy linux user (linuxmint) but there is Centos, Fedora, Ubuntu depending on your needs.

  13. EP said on September 6, 2023 at 11:55 am

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released new BIOS/firmware updates for their Intel 600 & 700 series motherboards to fix the “UNSUPPORTED_PROCESSOR” problem (Sept. 6):–UNSUPPORTED-PROCESSOR–caused-BSOD-on-MSI-s-Intel-700-and-600-Series-Motherboards-142277

  14. Raphael Benzo said on September 24, 2023 at 9:52 pm

    I try to disable the Diagnostics Tracking Service (Connected Devices Platform User Services) but it wont let me disable it, any help will be greatly appreciated.
    Tank you for your help

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