How can I make my PC open my email program, my weather forecast program, and my Calendar program at designated places on the screen at startup? I’m running Windows 11.
It used to be that specifying programs to launch on bootup required some pretty polished programming skills in the early days of Windows. Windows 10 improved on it somewhat, though you still needed to access the “Run” command line to do it, but in Windows 11, it’s much, much easier. I guess the developers at Microsoft decided it would be okay if people actually had a few favorite apps like Spotify, Calendar, or a Web browser launch automatically. 🙂
Unfortunately, the new Startup Apps window in Windows 11 isn’t quite perfect and most people find that it doesn’t actually list all of the potential programs you might want to have auto-launch. Someday. Fortunately, the Windows 10 “Startup” folder is still accessible and with just a little bit of fiddling, you can use that (in addition to Startup Apps) to get everything to work. I’ll step you through the process in both cases.
I do want to note that in terms of an app starting up in the right place with the correct size window, well, that’s up to the app or program, as far as I know, so if you find that regardless of what you do the app opens up full screen or similar, you might want to drop a note to the company asking for that bug to be fixed!
Now, let’s get into it.
WINDOWS 11: AUTO-START PROGRAMS ON BOOT
There are various ways to navigate to the correct spot in Settings, but I’m a huge fan of the Win11 search, so instead, just search for “startup“:
As you can see in my groovy purple theme, the best match is the System setting “Startup Apps”. That’s what we want. Click or tap on it and a window opens up like this:
What can be confusing is that there are a lot more than just these four apps on my PC, but somehow that’s all it’s offering here. No scroll, no additional list below, and rebooting won’t update it either. Even stranger: Before I installed Spotify, Google Chrome was listed. Spotify replaced it even though I didn’t uninstall Chrome. I have no explanation for this anomalous behavior.
Fortunately for my situation, however, Spotify is listed. To have it automatically launch as part of the Windows 11 startup process, a simple click will suffice to turn it “On”:
I should also note that the projected impact on system performance – above it says “No impact” – is a rough estimate based on the resources required by the program. A low impact program could easily slow your system down and a program listed as “High impact” could be easily ignored in the background. Use your own assessment to best know what to include and exclude.
So that got Spotify running on boot. But what about other programs? Well, for that we’re going to have to delve into the Windows 10 way of specifying which programs you want to have launch on boot. And it’s a bit more complicated…
WINDOWS 10: LAUNCH PROGRAMS ON BOOT
To start, you’ll want to search for “Run” then launch the command line utility in Windows. This is true if you’re running Windows 10 too, as it happens. You’ll get a tiny little window:
As shown, you want to type exactly as shown the following: shell:startup
Note that there are no spaces and no punctuation other than the colon. Type it correctly, click “OK” and File Manager will show you a folder buried deep in the Windows hierarchy:
Now, you don’t want to put apps or programs in this folder, but that’s why Windows has Shortcuts. Shortcuts are like forwarding addresses, they aren’t an item, they just point to it. Very handy in daily use, actually!
With the “Startup” folder, it’s shortcuts to the programs you want that should be dropped in here. The official Microsoft way to do this is a bit cumbersome and starts with clicking on New > Shortcut:
Once you get here, there’s a sequence of steps required to get it set up…
You probably won’t know the location of the item, so do what everyone else does: Click on “Browse…“. You’ll then be in a typical file picker, so navigate to somewhere like C:\Program Files\Windows Apps\ and choose the app you seek. If I wanted to have NotePad automatically launch, I might choose that:
Once you’ve chosen it, you’ll be shown the full location:
Look good? Click on “Next” at the bottom of this window and you’ll be able to give the shortcut a mnemonic name as desired. Submit that – the default is the app name – and you’ll have a shortcut and a program ready to start up on launch:
But now that you know this is all about Shortcuts, well, there are MUCH easier ways to drop a shortcut into this folder!
My favorite: Just drag an icon off the Start Menu:
In this instance, dragging the Messenger app icon off the All apps listing on the Start Menu automatically makes it a shortcut (that’s what the “Link” means). That’s step one. Then just drag that new Shortcut into the “Startup” folder and you’ve just set things up so that Messenger will automatically launch on next restart.
So that’s the scoop. If the Windows 11 “Startup Apps” system actually listed all apps, that’d be by far the preferred solution, but since it doesn’t I’ve shared the new and old school ways to do this. Hope it works for you!
Pro Tip: I’ve been writing about Windows for many years and now have an extensive Windows 11 help area. Please check it out to find lots of additional tutorials and guides while you’re here. Thanks!