Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

How do I get something to open automatically when I log in to Windows?


I have a laptop with XP and would like to have it boot and open my Palm
desktop. I can’t figure a way to get it added to msconfig’s startup file, and I
can no longer just go into autoexec.bat and add it. Any suggestions??

Of course!

MSConfig is a great tool to use to remove things from your computer’s
start-up, but it’s not really intended to add things.

And while there are maybe a couple of dozen places where start-up things can
be placed, there’s really only two you probably need to know about when adding
things of your own. And the great news is that they’re very easy to change.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

By far the easiest way to have something happen automatically on log in is
to add a shortcut to your Startup menu. What’s that? That’s
one of the menu items you’ll find within the All Programs menu
item underneath your Start menu:

Startup menu

Windows treats the Startup menu specially: it runs whatever
it finds there when you login.

In other words, it does exactly what you’re asking for.

To add something to your Startup menu, start by
right-clicking on the Start menu:

Right Click Pop-up menu on Start button

Here, you’ll need to make a choice. Recall I said there are two places
you’ll probably need to know about, and this is where that comes up.

Click on Explore if you want to add a startup item that
applies only to the account you’re logged in as. In other words, click on Explore when
there are other accounts on your machine and you don’t want to add
something to automatically start for all of them.

Click on Explore All Users if you want to add a startup
item that applies to every account. So for example, you would click on Explore All Users if you wanted to add something
that automatically starts no matter what account logs in.

If you’re unsure I’d recommend just using Explore, which
I’ll do here:

Windows Explorer open on the Start Menu

You can see that this is just Windows Explorer opened on “C:\Documents and
Settings\LeoN\Start Menu”, which is the folder on my machine where my personal
start menu items are stored.

Expand “Start Menu“, on the left, and then
Programs“, and then click on “Startup“, and
you should see something similar to this:

Windows Explorer open on Startup sub menu

Naturally the list of programs you may or may not see there will be

There are several ways to create a shortcut to what you want to run.

The most obvious is probably to right-click in the empty area on the right,
and select New and then Shortcut:

Creating a new shortcut in Windows Explorer

Then just follow the steps to locate the program or file you want to
automatically launch on start up.

An alternate way I find a little less error prone is to use drag-and-drop to
create a new shortcut from an existing menu item.

With Windows Explorer opened as above on your Startup menu
folder (either your own, or All Users), click on the
Start menu, and locate the item you want to have start
automatically. Click and hold on that item, and then drag it over to
Windows explorer. Don’t release just yet. Here’s an example of my
clicking, holding and dragging TrueCrypt into my Startup

Click and Drag adding to Startup folder

Before you release, press the ALT key so that the
plus sign near the icon you’re about to drop changes to a shortcut

ALT Click and Drag adding to Startup folder

Now release the mouse button, and a shortcut will be placed in that
Startup folder:

Startup menu folder with added shortcut

And if you look at your Start menu’s
Startup item, you’ll see it shows up there now as well:

Startup menu with new item

Now each time I log in to my machine, TrueCrypt will be started for me

Do this

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

7 comments on “How do I get something to open automatically when I log in to Windows?”

  1. Love the article, but how do I get past the login: User Name & Password..

    Seems my beast has a nasty habit of rebooting during the night ( unintended).. Tried to nail the problem “BSOD” but made little progress..
    Presently, I just let it reboot and usually find the machine waiting for a login in the morning,,
    It would be easier if I could make this step go away..

    Thanks for listening

  2. This doesn’t work under Windows 7. How do I do it under Win7?

    It should work pretty much the same in Windows 7. We’d need to know where it fails for you.



Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.