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How to Access the Windows 10 Startup Folder

Posted by Robert Hayes on October 14, 2019
windows 10 startup power

Do you remember the Windows Startup Folder? It was an important part of Windows versions starting all the way back at Windows 95. The Startup Folder was a special folder that you could easily find via the Start Menu, and any programs that were located in the Startup Folder would run whenever the computer powered on or rebooted.

The startup folder was a transition from an older way of set what programs would start when a Windows PC booted up.

The Rise and Fall of Autoexec.bat

Back in the days of MS-DOS and then Windows 3.1, every time your computer started up, it looked for and executed a batch script called “autoexec.bat”.

Power DOS and Windows 3.1 users would use a text editor to modify autoexec.bat and add our personal favorite programs to the script so that they’d already be loaded when the computer booted up.

Autoexec.bat continued to be a way of launching programs (and more commonly, to set system and environment variables) through the Windows NT years.

However, Microsoft was trying to move users away from a scripted, command-line environment and to encourage the use of the graphical interface model with windows, files, and folders, and so subsequent versions of their operating systems did not require autoexec.bat, and eventually did away with it entirely.

Moving to a Graphical User Interface World

If you didn’t use a desktop computer back in the 20th century, you may not have a feel for how revolutionary operating systems like Windows 95, and the Macintosh OS over on the Apple side, felt at the time.

Although Windows 95, in particular, was riddled with flaws from a modern point of view, at the time and for end-users it was a fundamental shift in the way people used computers to do work.

Before Windows 95, batch scripts and command-line interfaces were always the main, and usually the only, way to get your computer to do anything at all. If you wanted to run Word, you didn’t look for an icon to click; you opened a command-line interpreter and typed “winword.exe”.  While Windows 3.1 was a GUI, you still had to know how to be a DOS power user in order to be a Windows 3.1 power user.

Windows 95 changed all that. Although you could still perform nearly every important task using a command line (and in fact command-line interpreters are significantly more powerful and full-featured even now than they were back then), Windows 95 made it easier to do it graphically.

You would click on a picture of a folder marked “Program Files” and find the icon for MS Word, and you would click on that icon and launch the program. Yes, that’s pretty much the way we do it now – but Windows 95 is when we started to do everything that way.

Enter the Windows Startup Folder

This new way of organizing the desktop and starting programs, along with the invention of “multitasking” (it used to be a big deal for a computer to be able to do two things at once), meant that Microsoft needed to re-envision the way that users could set programs to automatically start when the computer started.

One of the major innovations of Windows 95 was the creation of the Start Menu, the little flyout menu that appeared when you clicked on the “Start” button in the lower-left corner of the screen.

The Start Menu is still around, although it’s been mangled a few times by the competing clans of user interface designers at Microsoft. If you have Windows 10, it’s the Windows logo in that corner. Hit the Windows key on your keyboard or click the Windows logo, and up pops…the Start Menu, Windows 10 version.

The Start Menu, Windows 95 version

The Windows 95 Start Menu bore a lot of resemblance to the Windows 10 version of the Startup menu, actually. As you can see, there were sections to power down the machine, to run a command in a command-line interpreter, to access the system help, to search for things, to access the settings/Control Panel, to load your documents folder, and of course, the Programs folder.

And inside the Programs folder, we come finally to the Startup Folder in Windows 10.

Users could manually drag application shortcuts to the Startup Folder (from their favorite Web browser, word processor, or media player) and these apps would automatically launch and be ready for use as soon as the user logged in.

Many software applications would automatically place themselves in the Startup Folder to be started on boot.

Since that time, the Startup Folder was the primary way for a user to customize and automate their startup routine. The Startup Folder is still in use in Windows 10, although some of the operational details have changed. In this article, I will show you how to access and use the Startup Folder.

Starting in 2012 with the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft made a controversial move and eliminated the Start Menu. All of the functionality was still present in the operating system, they just made it harder to reach everything. Even for an operating system family whose history is littered with dumb moves driven by marketers, this move stood out.

Microsoft wanted people to move to different ways of scheduling programs for automatic execution, but there was such pushback from the user community that the Start Menu was quietly brought back in with Windows 10.

Startup Folder Windows 7

The familiar Startup folder from Windows 7.

Although the Start Menu returned in Windows 10, the Startup Folder no longer appears in it automatically. However, the Startup folder still functions, even though there’s no clear and easy method to access the folder from the Start Menu.

How do I get to the Windows Startup folder?

One important thing to understand is that there are now two Startup Folder locations in Windows 10. There is one folder that operates at the system level and is shared among all user accounts, and then there is another folder that operates at the user level and is unique to each user on the system. That is, if you have a Windows 10 PC with multiple accounts, there will be a unique Startup Folder for each of those accounts in addition to the universal Startup Folder that applies to everyone.

For example, consider a PC with two user accounts: one account for Jane and one account for John. A shortcut for Microsoft Edge is placed, somewhat implausibly, in the All Users Startup Folder and a shortcut for Notepad is placed in the Startup Folder for the Jane user account. When Jane logs into Windows, both Microsoft Edge and Notepad will launch automatically, but when John logs into his account, only Edge will launch.

The distinction between the All Users and Current User Startup Folders may seem trivial, but it’s important to remember if you’re troubleshooting why a certain application isn’t opening, or when working with certain applications that feature user-based licensing or access restrictions. When in doubt, check to ensure that both Startup Folder locations are configured properly.

Direct Path to the Windows 10 Startup Folder

You can navigate directly to both the All Users and Current User Startup Folders in Windows 10 using the following paths. Note that you can either navigate to these paths via File Explorer, or copy and paste the relevant path in the Run box, which can be accessed by pressing Windows Key + R on your keyboard.

If you opt to use File Explorer, note that you’ll need to enable the “Show Hidden Files” option in order to see certain folders in the path.

windows 10 startup folder
The All Users Startup Folder is located at the following path:

C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\StartUp

The Current User Startup Folder is located here:

C:\Users\[User Name]\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup

You can use your mouse to get to these folders by going to Start then All Programs, then right-clicking Startup and selecting Open. Instead of navigating to each Startup Folder’s path in File Explorer (and potentially having to enable the “Show Hidden Files” option), you can jump directly to each folder with a Run command.

To quickly access the All Users Startup Folder in Windows 10, open the Run dialog box (Windows Key + R), type shell:common startup, and click OK. A new File Explorer window will open displaying the All Users Startup Folder.

windows 10 common startup folder
For the Current User Startup Folder, open the Run dialog and type shell:startup.

windows 10 user startup folder
Typing shell:startup will take you directly to the Current User Startup Folder.

Windows 10 Startup Folder Launch Order

As a final note, it’s important to mention that the items you place in your All Users or Current User Startup Folders won’t launch immediately upon logging in to your Windows 10 account. Windows will first load its necessary system processes and any items in the Task Manager’s Startup tab, and then launch your Startup Folder items after that.

For most users, these initial steps won’t take long and you’ll see your designated Startup Folder apps launch within a second or two of reaching the Windows 10 desktop. But if you have lots of first- and third-party applications and services already configured to launch at boot, it may take a few moments to see your Startup Folder items appear.

If your computer Windows startups are slow, it’s a good idea to check the startup folder to make sure you do not have programs you don’t really need to launch on boot in there. It’s best to keep the number of programs that start on boot to a minimum. There are some more tips on speeding up your PC in Why is my computer so slow? Tips to Speed up Windows 10.

Want to learn more Windows 10 tips and tricks? Check out these TechJunkie how-to articles:.

If you’re working with your hard drive, you should learn how to use CHKDSK to scan and repair Windows 10 hard drives.

Here’s our guide to minimizing a window to the tray in Windows 10.

We have a solid tutorial on how to fix problems with Windows 10 search.

If you use your Windows 10 machine for gaming, you’ll want to read our walkthrough on optimizing Windows 10 for games.

Performance is always important – here’s how to get the most performance out of your Windows 10 machine.

Do you have any tips and tricks on how to manage the programs that start on boot? Please let us know in a comment below!

7 thoughts on “How to Access the Windows 10 Startup Folder”

Gkygrrl says:
Couldn’t the same function be achieved through msconfig? I would think it would work more smoothly setting the start up options there versus doing shortcut from another computer.
Reply
TardNoGirlFriend says:
Just in case you are your computers’ admin.
Check registry branches:
1) HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
2) HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
Not panacea, but still most of software you see in task manager but don’t see in common startup directories writes its startup keys in these branches.
There are some more registry branches but most of them consider malware.
Reply
Ben says:
help
im trying to remove skype from the startup and it just comes up as the folder being empty buut it cant be as skype opens itself every time open my computer. what do i do??
Reply
LogicPolice says:
Uninstall Skype
Reply
drcjones says:
Thank you! Especially for the Task Manager’s Startup tab info.
Reply
Sarvelio Navarro says:
Listo, me fue de mucha utilidad este post muy agradecido por la informacion
Reply
Dan Martin says:
Worthless considering we’re LOCKED OUT from adding shortcuts to the folder by default.
Reply
Paul Peterson says:
Dude, it is not the article writer’s fault that you are not able to access all your computer functions. It worked great for me.
Reply

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