Automatically Load Programs and Documents When You Start Your PC

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On any given day, reader Stephen works with several different files in several different programs. His hassle is having to restart these programs and reload these documents every time he boots his PC:

I would like to be able to shut my PC down and then start up the next day with the same programs and files open on my desktop--just like if I had a REAL desk with all the hard-copy documents neatly laid out ready for me to jump right into work the next day.

Makes sense to me. For example, I typically run Word, Chrome, and Outlook every day, so why I am loading them manually like a sucker?

Although you can't quite "snapshot" your desktop, Stephen, Windows actually makes it pretty easy to auto-load both programs and documents. But keep in mind there's a reason most people don't take advantage of it: the more stuff you load during startup, the longer it takes your machine to, well, start up. Indeed, many users go out of their way to reduce the number of programs that run during the boot process, precisely so that Windows starts faster.

But if you prize convenience over speed (personally, I like using Windows' lengthy boot to, say, straighten my desk or go refill my coffee cup), here's how to make programs and/or documents start when Windows does.

(By the way, readers, obviously you can use Windows' hibernate option to restore your workspace exactly as you left it, but Stephen reported that this was causing problems on his system.)

1. Click Start, All Programs.

2. Find the Startup folder. Right-click it, then choose Open.

3. Find the icon for the program or document you want to run at startup. Right-click it, then choose Create shortcut. (Note: If it's a document for, say, Word, you don't need a shortcut for Word as well. Any given document will automatically run the program it's associated with.)

4. Drag that shortcut into the Startup folder.

5. Close the Startup folder.

Presto! The next time you reboot, your Startup shortcuts will load automatically. If you want to make changes, just open the Startup folder again and delete any shortcuts. (Remember, they're shortucts, not the actual documents/programs--so there's no harm in deleting them.)

Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community Forums. Sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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