Annoyed by an app coming up every time you start Windows? Starting a program every time you boot? Find out below how to change startup programs on Windows 10 to add or disable automatic launches.

First, a Queen without a Pen

Queen Elizabeth I was sewing when, sometime in the 16th century’s latter half, she was asked to nominate the year’s tax collectors dubbed High Sheriffs. She was sewing, and for want of a pen to mark the document—she used the needle right at hand to prick it instead.

So the story goes. Want to make sure a certain program is always at hand when you start up Windows?

Get an Overview of Startup Programs on Windows 10

To see which programs Windows 10 launches automatically when you start up the computer:

  1. Click in the Windows taskbar with the right mouse button.
  2. Select Task Manager from the menu that has appeared.
  3. Go to the Startup tab.
    • Note: If you do not see the Startup tab, click More details at the Task Manager window’s bottom.
  4. Find all startup programs (other than background processes and Windows services) listed.

Tip: To learn out more about the listed programs, add columns that reveal more detail:

  1. Click on one of the list headers (say, Name) with the right mouse button.
  2. Select any previously unchecked column to add its information to the list:
    • Startup type: how is Windows 10 told to start the program?
    • Startup impact: does the program affect startup time?
    • Command line: what command is used precisely to launch the program at Windows startup?

Add a Program to Start Automatically on Windows 10 Startup

To have a program start up automatically when you boot into Windows 10:

  1. Click on the Start button with the right mouse button.
  2. Select Run from the menu that has appeared.
    • Keyboard shortcut: You can also press Windows R.
  3. Type shell:startup.
  4. Click OK.
    • Keyboard shortcut: You can also press Enter, of course.
  5. Click the Start button.
  6. Select All apps in the leftmost menu.
  7. Locate the program you want to be started automatically.
  8. Drag and drop the Program to the Windows Explorer window showing the “Startup” folder.
    • Note: This will create a shortcut to the application in the “Startup” folder.

To start a program not found in All apps to automatic startup:

  1. Open the “Startup” folder. (See steps 1–4 above.)
  2. Click Start.
  3. Open the File Explorer application.
    • Keyboard shortcut: You can also press Windows E.
  4. Find the application you want to launch under This PC.
  5. Drag and drop the application to the “Startup” folder.
    • Note: By default, Windows 10 will create a link as it should; make sure the tooltip text next to the icon you are dragging reads Create link in Startup as you hover over the “Startup” folder.

Disable a Program from Starting Automatically on Windows 10

To prevent a program from being started automatically when Windows 10 starts up:

  1. Open the Startup tab in Task Manager. (See above.)
  2. Highlight the program whose automatic startup you want to prevent.
  3. Click Disable.
    • Note: To re-enable automatic startup of a disabled program, click Enable.

How to Change Startup Programs on Windows 10: FAQ

“Startup impact” is “not measured”; what can I do?

If Windows 10 Task Manager reports a startup impact of not measured, you can try the following to get some bearing:

  1. Disable all startup items in Task Manager.
  2. Restart Windows.
  3. Enable startup items in Task Manager.
  4. Restart Windows.

Can I manually start a program whose automatic starting I have disabled?

Yes. You can open the program as you usually would.

To launch a startup program manually:

  1. Open the Startup tab in Windows 10 Task Manager. (See above.)
  2. Click on the program you want to start with the right mouse button.
  3. Select Open file location from the menu that has appeared.
  4. Double-click the highlighted file in Windows Explorer.

Can I change the command line for startup programs on Windows 10?

Yes. To customize command line arguments for programs in the “Startup” folder:

  1. Open your Windows 10 “Startup” folder. (See steps 1–4 above.)
  2. Click on the Windows 10 startup program whose command line you want to configure with the right mouse button.
  3. Select Properties from the context menu that has appeared.
  4. Go to the Shortcut tab.
  5. Edit the command line under Target:.
    • Tip: Append command line arguments to the existing reference enclosed in quotation marks.
    • Example: To start Mozilla Firefox with La De Du, for instance, the Target: could read "C:\Program Files (x86)\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe"
  6. Click OK.

Where do I find Windows 10 startup programs in the Registry?

To find programs that are set to run at Windows 10 startup using the Windows registry, look in the following locations:

  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\WOW6432Node\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run

(The “RunOnce” keys in the same locations hold programs that are set to launch at the next startup, but not every time Windows 10 starts.)

(How to Change Startup Programs on Windows 10 tested with Windows 10 1803; updated May 2018; title image: StockUnlimited)