How to have Windows re-open active windows and programs on reboot

There is a way to have all your open windows and program re-open after a reboot, and here's how to do it.

new windows 10 logo primary
Rob Schultz

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by PCWorld's Editors

Top Deals On Great Products

Picked by Techconnect's Editors

Jackie asked why her PC isn't able to re-open all her active windows and programs after a reboot like it does on the Mac.

As a PC and Mac user I've also experienced this phenomenon, and it's odd why Microsoft doesn't provide this as an option. When you restart a Mac it asks you if you want all your open windows and programs to launch after reboot, making it quite easy to resume working after an update is installed. This normally isn't that big of a deal on the Windows platform, but with Windows 10 a lot of users are experiencing unplanned reboots due to how Microsoft's mandatory updates.

Though there's not a way outside of installing third-party software to automatically resume a session after a reboot, I can show you (and Jackie) a few tricks to make your favorite programs open after a reboot along with any open Explorer Windows. 

[Have a tech question? Send your query to]

1. First, there's an option within Windows that will automatically open any Explorer windows you had open previously. To check this setting just open Control Panel and click File Explorer Options. In the View tab make sure the box labeled Restore previous folder windows at logon is checked. This will re-open any Explorer windows you have open in the event of a reboot. 

Explorer options

This option within Windows allows you to resume working with files and folders after a reboot. 

2. With your Windows Explorer windows handled, it's time to turn to open programs. Unfortunately, the only way I know how to do this without turning to a piece of software is to simply add any programs you want to start automatically to the Windows Startup folder. It's not the most elegant solution, but it works great with a web browser along with the "continue where I left off" setting for opening a new browser window. Firefox and IE offer this option as well. 

With that in place, open any Explorer window or open the Run command and type Shell:startup without any spaces to open the Startup folder. You can also manually navigate to C: > Users > Profilename > AppData > Roaming > Microsoft > Start Menu > Programs > Startup.

Startup Programs Folder

Don't bother navigating Microsoft's archaic file structure; just open an Explorer window and type "shell:startup"

When that window appears, or is opened, whatever links to programs you drag into that folder will automatically start with Windows. I only have Google Chrome in mine, and combined with the above settings it allows me to reboot my PC at any time and have my browser appear just as I left it. 

I know this solution isn't perfect, as it won't automatically open any programs you were using, but it's as good as I can figure out. If you have any additional tips, please share them by writing to 

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon