How to add a program to startup in Windows 10 or 11
- Press Windows+R to open the “Run” dialog box.
- Type “shell:startup” and then press Enter to open the “Startup” folder.
- Create a shortcut in the “Startup” folder to any file, folder or program’s executable file. It opens at startup the next time you start up.
Some Windows apps configure themselves to start automatically every time Windows starts. But you can make any app, file, or folder start with Windows by adding it to the Windows “Startup” folder.
Some apps already have a built-in setting for this, but if they don’t, this method is what you want. You can also open any file or folder when Windows starts – in case it’s something you use regularly. All you have to do is create a shortcut to whatever you want to launch in a special “Startup” folder – one of Windows’ hidden system folders. This technique will work with just about any version of Windows from Vista up to Windows 7, 8, 10 or even 11.
However, also note that the more programs you launch at startup, the longer the startup process will seem to take. If there are some apps you don’t want to launch at startup, you can also disable certain startup programs.
Step one: Open the Windows startup folder
“Startup” is a hidden system folder that you can navigate to in File Explorer (assuming you show hidden files). Technically, it is located in
%APPDATA%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startupbut you don’t have to open File Explorer and start browsing – there’s a much easier way to get there.
You can open many of Windows’ hidden and special folders directly using the “shell” command if you know the names of the folders. And you can launch the “shell” command directly from the “Run” dialog box.
To open the “Startup” folder the easy way, just press Windows+R to open the “Run” box, type “shell:startup”, and then press Enter.
This will open a File Explorer window right to the “Startup” folder.
Leave that window open, because we’ll work on it in the next section.
Step Two: Create a shortcut in the “Startup” folder
To make an app, file or folder start with Windows, all you need to do is create a shortcut to the item in the “Startup” folder. We’ll be working with a handy little app called Sizer as our example, but this technique applies to whatever you’re creating a shortcut for.
First, find the item you want to create the shortcut for. Just open another File Explorer window and find the executable, file, or folder you want to launch at startup. There are different ways to create shortcuts in Windows, but we’re fans of the super-fast right-drag method: hold down the right mouse button and drag the item you want to shortcut to the “Startup” folder. When you release the button, a pop-up menu appears with a few options. Click “Create shortcut here.”
That’s all you need to do. You will now see a shortcut to your item in the “Startup” folder.
The next time you start Windows, the app, file, or folder will start right along with it. This method even works to launch Windows Store apps at startup.
How to make startup programs load faster
When using Windows 10 or 11, there is a delay before your startup programs actually start, which is probably there to help everything feel functional earlier in the boot process and enable all the internal Windows functions to start fully. running. However, if you have a very fast PC, you may not need to bother with that delay.
You can remove the delay by opening the Registry Editor and scrolling down to the following key:
Once there, create a key called Serialize and then call a new 32-bit DWORD
StartupDelayInMSec below the one with the value set to 0.
Or you can just head over to our article on removing Windows 10 startup delay and grab the registry hack files that will automate it for you. Up to you!
Alternative method for power users: Use Task Scheduler for more control
While we’d definitely recommend just using the shell:startup trick, you can also use Task Scheduler to run processes at system startup, when you log in, during idle times, or even when you lock or unlock the screen. It’s an incredibly powerful tool for more advanced users who want to automate their computer to do things like create system restore points at startup or automatically wake up at a specific time.
To launch a program at startup using Task Scheduler, open Task Scheduler using the Start menu’s search box, go to Action, then Create Basic Task, and follow the instructions. You should actually use the “Log in” option if you’re trying to run a normal program.
For more, be sure to read our detailed guide to using Task Scheduler to launch processes later.