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Windows has several mechanisms for having something start automatically when you log in. I'll walk through one of the simplest.

Running Windows 7, I'd like Internet Explorer to start automatically when I log in. How do I do that?

As is evidenced by all the malware that does it, making something start when Windows starts or when you login is actually pretty easy.

I'll show you one of the simplest approaches.

The "magic" behind this approach is that there is a special sub-menu item in your All Programs menu called "Startup". Any shortcuts you place in that sub-menu will be run automatically when you login.

Click on the "Start Orb" (so called because they replaced the Windows XP "Start" button with the Windows logo in an orb):

Windows 7 'Start Orb'

Click on All Programs, and then scroll down until the Startup item becomes visible and right-click on it:

Startup menu in Windows 7

Click on Explore to open a Windows Explorer window on the contents of the Startup sub-menu:

Windows 7 Startup Folder in Windows Explorer

Now, go back to the Start menu and locate the item for Internet Explorer - or whatever program you want to have start automatically. Right-click on the item and select Copy:

Copying the shortcut to Internet Explorer from the start menu

Now go back to the window that contains the contents of the Startup sub-menu, right-click in an empty space therein, and click on Paste:

Pasting a shortcut into the Startup Menu

Now you'll see the item in the window:

Startup Menu in Windows Explorer showing new entry

As well as in the start menu itself:

Startup Menu itself showing new entry

Now, when you login, Internet Explorer (in this example) will start automatically.

(In case you're wondering why the Windows Explorer window shows only a subset of what actually appears on the actual start menu, it's because I elected to "Explore" rather than "Explore All Users". "Explore" opens a window on the start menu that applies only to the currently logged in user. "Explore All Users" opens a window on the start menu that applies to all users on the machine. When the actual start menu is displayed the two are combined.)

Article C4216 - March 12, 2010 « »

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?

March 16, 2010 11:53 AM

I use a freebie called StartUP Delayer to delay the start of my login programs.
It allows me to space the start of these items for a more orderly startup of them.

It might be wise to delay startup of a heavy program like IE8 until after the computer completes boot to functional desktop.

March 16, 2010 5:54 PM

Another method is the following:
1. Send a shortcut of the program .exe you want to start automatically to the desktop.
2. Type shell:startup into Start/search or Run and hit Enter. This brings up the startup folder.
3. Drag the shortcut from (1) into that folder. Close the folder. That's all.

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