In older versions of Microsoft Windows prior to Windows 8, the Startup Folder was a special folder accessible via the Start Menu that would automatically launch any program contained within it when the user logged into their PC. Users could manually place certain application shortcuts in the Startup Folder (e.g., 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. In many other cases, certain software applications would place their own shortcuts in the Startup Folder during installation to ensure proper functionality.
With the launch of Windows 8 in late 2012, Microsoft controversially eliminated the Start Menu from the operating system. While this change removed easy end-user access to the Startup Folder, it did not mean that the Startup Folder was no longer an important component of Windows. The Startup Folder continued to exist and serve a useful purpose, but it was relegated to lesser importance in favor of new ways of managing startup applications via the Task Manager.
When the Start Menu returned in Windows 10, it continued to lack direct access to the Startup Folder. But, like in Windows 8, this doesn’t mean that the Windows 10 Startup Folder serves no purpose. Some applications — in particular, many legacy applications created prior to Microsoft’s introduction of the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) — still rely on the Startup Folder to properly function, and users can still place application shortcuts in the Startup Folder as a quick and easy way to launch certain apps at boot. So, even though Microsoft doesn’t provide obvious end-user access to the Windows 10 Startup Folder as it used to do in earlier versions of the operating system, this unique folder is still available and useful in many situations. Here’s how you can find and use the Startup Folder in Windows 10 (and we’ll note that these steps work in Windows 8 as well).
Two Types of Startup Folders
First, it’s important to note that there are actually two Startup Folder locations in Windows, one that is at the system level and applies to all user accounts, and one that is unique to the current user account. These two folders work together when determining which applications will launch when a user logs in.
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 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.
The All Users Startup Folder is located at the following path:
The Current User Startup Folder is located here:
With either location open in File Explorer, you can drag and drop application shortcuts to configure these applications to launch when the current user or all users log in. You’ll be able to simply drag and drop application shortcuts into your own user-level Startup Folder, but you’ll need admin rights and face a UAC prompt when adding items to the All Users Startup Folder.
Shortcut to the Windows 10 Startup Folder
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.
For the Current User Startup Folder, open the Run dialog and type shell:startup.
This will, of course, 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. 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.
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