Windows Program Startup Locations

by Wayne Maples [Published on 20 April 2004 / Last Updated on 20 April 2004]

Need to find out where programs launch themselves from? Check out the following or if you want to know for without a lot of searching. A good solution is to download AutoStart Guard, the Freeware Autostart Viewing, Alerting & Control System for Window.
  • RunServiceOnce subkey : designed to start service programs before user logs on and before other registry subkeys start.
    • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunServicesOnce registry key
    • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunServicesOnce registry key

  • RunServices subkey : loads immediately after RunServicesOnce and before user logon.
    • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunServices registry key
    • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunServices registry key

  • Run subkey : The Run subkey in HKLM runs immediately before the Run subkey in HKCU.
    • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run registry key
    • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run registry key

  • RunOnce subkey : primarily used by Setup programs. The HKLM subkey version of RunOnce runs programs immediately after logon and before other registry Run entries. The HKCU subkey version of RunOnce runs programs after Run subkeys and after the Startup folder.
    • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce registry key
    • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce registry key XP also has RunOnceEx:
    • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnceEx registry key

  • RunOnce\Setup subkey : specifies programs to run after the user logs on

  • Explorer\Run subkey :
    • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer\Run registry key
    • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer\Run registry key

  • Userinit subkey : there is an entry for userinit.exe but subkey can accept multiple comma- separated values. Can't find where program starting? Look here.
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\Userinit registry key
  • load subkey :
    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Windows\load registry key

  • All Users Startup folder : very common place to find autostart programs for whoever logs on
    Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Programs\Startup folder

  • Startup folder : the most common location for programs to automatically boot from
    Documents and Settings\user\Start Menu\Programs\Startup folder If you migrated from NT, the path is Profiles\user\Start Menu\Programs\Startup

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