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Vista: User profile startup programs not executed

posted by Martin Rubli at 17:34

If you thought buying a new computer and installing a fresh copy of the latest and greatest (only in terms of disk space usage, obviously) Windows Vista is a good start for productive computing then you obviously haven't reckoned with Microsoft's talent to break the simplest of features.

While setting up my system I eventually noticed some strange behavior: The startup programs that I had placed into the start menu were not executed. On the other hand, some startup programs seemed to be executed twice; in my case I ended up with two OneNote icons in the tray bar.

I didn't make the connection at first but a closer analysis showed that the links in

C:\Users\martin\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup

were not executed on log in whereas the ones in

C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup

were executed twice.

A quick scan of the registry (which brought up a whole new bug, but more about that in the next article) quickly found the reason of this strange behavior.

In the

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders

path there is an entry called Start Menu, which, in my case, contained the following, erroneous path:

%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup

This obviously makes no sense because, as the registry path already indicates, these are the User Shell Folders. All the other entries in the same registry location were correct though.

The fix was trivial, I simply just replaced it with the following:

%USERPROFILE%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup

Sidenote: There's a second registry location that also contained the wrong folder, though as a REG_SZ instead REG_EXPAND_SZ string and therefore without the environment variables:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Shell Folders

Changing that one alone didn't have any immediately visible effect but to be on the safe side I would recommend changing that too.

It's also funny to see that when you right click the Startup folder in the start menu and choose 'Open' or 'Open All Users' Explorer doesn't seem to retrieve the path from any of the above registry locations.

How the wrong path had gotten there in the first place is beyond me. But when I started thinking about it I suddenly remembered that I had fixed the exact same problem at one point during my very first Vista experiment. Apparently more than a year and one service pack later things haven't changed. Let's wait for Service Pack 2, maybe that will ... Nah ... Put a lid on that hope's coffin and nail it shut. Six (6.0?) feet under is where Vista hopes are at home.


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