Launching an Application on Windows Startup

This article was contributed by : Partha Sarathi Dhar


For long I’ve benefited from the
numerous articles and codes at CodeGuru so I thought, that this is the right
time I contribute something to CodeGuru.

This is a small application … nothing special about it.
But it took me quite sometime to find out how to do it. My objective was to
write an application that launches itself at Windows startup. That’s simple …
most of you would say. And you’re right. You can do this in many ways, for
example.. you can modify the Autoexec.bat or you can change the Win.ini file.
You can also put the application into the Windows Startup group. There is
something common in all of these approaches –they can easily be prevented from
launching at Windows startup. Anyone can use the msconfig utility to do so, or
they can just edit the Autoexec.bat or Win.ini files to prevent the application
from launching at Windows Startup.

Herein lies the trick.

I wanted to build an application, which cannot be easily prevented from launching

at Windows Startup. I knew the trick lay in the registry.. So I started my R&D on the

Windows Registry. I found that under the Registry Key:


Herein lies seven subkeys:

  • Run
  • Run-
  • RunOnce
  • RunOnceEx
  • RunServices
  • RunServices-
  • RunServicesOnce

These keys are what hold the secret to solving the problem we’re addressing here.
Under each of these Subkeys a Name – Data Pair has to be
inserted where Name is the application name and Data is the fully qualified
path of the executable.

There are subtle differences
between each of these Subkeys. For example, if you make the entry under the
subkey Run or RunServices, the
application will be launched at Windows Startup but the application
entry would be visible from the msconfig utility. So anyone can prevent
your application from launching by making changes with the msconfig utility.
Hence this is not a solution. However if you make the entry under RunOnce,
and RunServicesOnce Subkeys, the application won’t be visible through the msconfig
utility and hence there is a negligible chance of preventing the application
from launching at Windows Startup. But there is a hitch; once the application
is launched the OS removes the respective entry from the subkey. So the
application won’t launch again.

So the trick is to continuously
update the respective subkey of the registry. And that is
exactly what this sample
application does. For simplicity, I’ve made it a dialog based
application, but the logic can be
safely applied to any type of applications.

I still don’t know whether this
is the best method to do this job, but it works. I also
don’t know whether there is any
straightforward API call to do this job. If you find any
way do let me know at [email protected].
I’d be grateful.


Once youve downloaded the demo project (below), follow these instructions to install and configure
this applications.

This project has been developed
in Microsoft Visual C++ 6.0 Enterprise Edition on a Win98 system. So you’ll
need to build the project, and run it. After the application is terminated just
copy the Boot.exe into your C: drive. This is because it has been hard coded to
run from the C: drive. However if you so desire, you can change this by editing
the CBootDlg::OnInitDialog() function.

You’ll have to change the following line of code
to launch the application at
Windows Startup from which ever path you want:


If you download the applications, simply copy the executable to your C: drive and run it once.
Reboot. Youll find the application launching again the next time your Windows


Download demo project 15 KB
Download only the executable 192 KB

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