Ask Leo! #657 – How Do I Get a Program to Auto-start When I Sign in to Windows?

How Do I Get a Program to Auto-start When I Sign in to Windows?


Leo, I'm trying to find out how to add a program to auto start on boot up in Windows. Do you know?

Windows 8 and 10 have done a stellar job of hiding how to do this, but nothing has really changed — at least not when it comes to this.

You can add a program to auto-start the same way you did in prior versions of Windows. Let's do that.

Navigate to the Startup subfolder

The basic premise is this: there is a special sub-folder on your Start menu called "Startup." Any programs or shortcuts found therein are run each time you sign in.

In versions of Windows prior to Windows 8, you could simply navigate to that folder on the Start menu and add shortcuts as needed.

The folder still exists, even though it's become particularly well hidden as of Windows 8.

There are still several ways to examine the Startup folder:

  • In the Run dialog box (on the Start menu, or opened by typing Windows Key + R), run1 the command: "shell:startup". This is perhaps the simplest of all.
  • In the Run dialog box, run the command: "%APPDATA%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup". (%APPDATA% is shorthand for ""C:\users\\AppData\Roaming", and will automatically have the correct "".)
  • In the Run dialog box, run the command: "C:\users\\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup".
  • In Windows File Explorer, navigate to "C:\users\\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup," replacing "" with your Windows log-in name.

Regardless of which technique you use, the result will be a Windows File Explorer window opened on the Startup sub-menu.

Startup Folder

As you can see, I have several things in there.

Installed programs that automatically run something on startup often place their shortcuts in that same folder. The "EvernoteClipper" shortcut you see there was added by the Evernote installation program. Windows may not display your Start menu, but the construct still has to be there for compatibility.

Creating a Startup shortcut

Once in the Startup folder in Windows File Explorer you can add a shortcut to any program (or folder2) using whatever technique you like.

One approach is to right-click in the right-hand pane, beneath any pre-existing shortcuts, and click on New, and then Shortcut.

New Shortcut

In the resulting dialog, enter the name of the program you want to run. This name can be a full path to the program (use the Browse button to locate that file), or, in the case of many Windows internal programs, it can simply be the name of the program, as I've entered above: cmd, the Windows Command Prompt, in my example.

Create Shortcut

Click Next. In the next dialog, you can change the name displayed for the shortcut, if you'd like to. (Unless you're regularly examining the contents of the Startup folder, you'll rarely, if ever, see the shortcut name.) Click Finish.

Shortcut Name

That's it. You now have a shortcut in the Startup folder.

New shortcut

And that's the magic: any shortcut you place in the Startup folder will automatically run when you sign in to your system. All you need to do is create a shortcut in this folder to the program, batch file, script, or whatever you want to automatically run when you sign-in, and it will. In my example, a Windows Command Prompt will now open each time I sign in.

At least one special case: Task Manager

One program some people like to run automatically is Task Manager. Experience has shown that, for reasons as yet unknown, a shortcut to Task Manger (taskmgr.exe) won't always work.

My workaround: using the technique I showed above, create a shortcut to:

cmd /c taskmgr.exe

This creates a shortcut not to Task Manager directly, but to the Windows Command Prompt. The "/c taskmgr.exe" option instructs Command Prompt to run task manager.

Related Links & Comments: How Do I Get a Program to Auto-start When I Sign in to Windows?

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How Do I Create a Shortcut that Bypasses UAC to a Program Needing Administrative Access?

I have a program that writes some information to an area of Windows 7 that requires administrative rights. As such, every time I run it, I am pestered by UAC. I understand there is a workaround to this by creating an entry in the Windows Task Scheduler, setting it to run as Administrator, then creating a shortcut which will execute that task entry. This is a trusted program – I have absolutely no concerns that it is doing naughty things. Knowing that I can do a workaround and knowing how to do it are two different things. Any help would be appreciated.

I've experienced the same thing, and it can definitely be annoying.

I would prefer that software we run regularly not require administrative access every time. Unfortunately not all software is written that cleanly. In those cases a workaround might well be a pragmatic solution.

You are correct: the workaround uses the Task Scheduler in an interesting way.

Continue Reading: How Do I Create a Shortcut that Bypasses UAC to a Program Needing Administrative Access?

Creating a Backup Image Using Windows' Built-in Backup

It's no secret that I'm not a huge fan of the image-backup software built into Windows. To my thinking, it's too obscure, too inflexible, and doesn't do a good job about telling you what's going on.

It does, however, have a couple of very strong positive attributes: it's free and already on your machine.

And it'll do what I consider to be the bare minimum.

Since the bare minimum is much, much better than nothing, let's create an image backup using Windows Backup.

Continue Reading: Creating a Backup Image Using Windows' Built-in Backup

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Posted: June 20, 2017 in: 2017
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