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Windows has a convenient mechanism to set programs to start automatically when you login. We'll look at that, as well as customizations like minimize.

I downloaded and activated Process Explorer: but I cannot get it to run at log-on, minimized, in the tray.

I get this question a lot for Process Explorer specifically, but it applies to many other applications as well.

I'll review how to set something to start automatically when you login, and I'll show you the "trick" to having it start minimized.

I'll use Windows 7 but what I'll be showing you hasn't changed all that much from earlier versions.

The Startup Sub-Menu

Click on the Start button or the Start "Orb" as it's come to be known in Vista and 7, and click on All Programs.

Windows 7 Start - All Programs Menu

Yours may well be somewhat different, but it will have in it a sub menu called "Startup", as highlighted here.

The Startup menu is "special", in that when you login, Windows automatically locates this menu and runs anything contained within it. So the way to get something to run automatically on login is simply to add a shortcut to the program to this sub menu.

Adding to the Startup Sub Menu

I'm going to use Process Explorer for this example, and I'll assume you have it downloaded somewhere already. I'll use C:\Tools as the folder in which I've placed it.

Locate the folder containing Process Explorer (procexp.exe), right click on it and click on Copy:

Right Clicking on Process Explorer's .exe file

Now, back to the start menu, open it to the Startup folder as we did above. Right click on the Startup folder and click on Explore:

Right Clicking on the Startup Folder

This will open Windows Explorer on the folder that "is" the Startup menu for the currently logged in user. It may be empty, or it may contain other programs already configured to automatically run on login.

Right click in an empty area and click on Paste Shortcut:

Right clicking to paste shortcut in startup folder

This will then place a shortcut to Process Explorer in the startup folder:

Shortcut to Process Explorer in a Windows Startup folder

And, if you now take a look at your Start menu:

Process Explorer in the Windows Startup menu

Now each time you login, Process Explorer will start automatically.

Starting Minimized

Most programs will open a regular window by default. In order to start a program minimized, we'll need to change a property on the shortcut we just created.

Right click on the shortcut itself and click on Properties:

Right clicking on the Process Explorer shortcut

In the resulting dialog, change the Run setting to be "Minimized":

Process Explorer shortcut properties

Click OK, and you're done. Now Process Explorer, or whatever application you've been working with, will start minimized.

Process Explorer Specifics

Process Explorer specifically has a couple of additional steps we probably want to take.

Before rebooting, click on the shortcut we just created to run Process Explorer. It'll start minimized, so click on its taskbar item to restore it to the screen.

Process Explorer's Eula

As you can see, you'll want to accept Process Explorer's EULA if you haven't already so that it actually runs.

Once Process Explorer is running click on the Options menu and make sure that Hide when minimized is checked:

Process Explorer hide when minimized option

Most people when choosing to run Process Explorer automatically want to have it hidden - which means that only the processor usage icon is present in the taskbar notification area. Clicking on that then restores Process Explorer's main window to the screen.

Article C4443 - September 8, 2010 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

September 14, 2010 9:51 AM

Windows 7 lets you pin icons to shortcuts in the taskbar, which you can open once Windows starts, or you can unpin them.

Frank Golden
September 14, 2010 3:56 PM

I like Process Explorer to replace the Task manager as well.

Malcolm Otter
September 15, 2010 2:17 PM

Interested to read this article as I am having difficulty getting Skype to start automatically under Windows 7. It used to work but no matter how I configure it now it will not start. Any ideas?

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