Windows developers have come to rely on AutoRun and AutoPlay functionality to deliver snazzy software that makes a good first impression. AutoRun technology automatically starts a program when an external disk, such as a CD or USB drive, is connected to a computer. AutoPlay lets users pick from a menu of actions, instead of hunting through folders on a disk. Together, these complementary features in Windows XP and Vista give one-click access to new applications on USB drives.
In Windows 7 and higher, however, this situation has changed. The double-edged sword of easy installation created security risks, which is why Microsoft blocked AutoRun on USB drives (but not CDs/DVDs) in Windows 7 (more details : AutoRun changes in Windows 7). Unfortunately, this move intended to stop the spread of viruses hurts legitimate developers as well. To automatically run a program when a USB drive is connected, developers of software for Windows have to resort to workarounds.
Developers have two options to work around autorun limitations:
1. Use of special USB drives that present themselves as CD drives to the computer (for example, U3 flash drives). These USB sticks can take advantage of autorun functionality like any other CD: they can copy files, install programs, and more. Flashbay company is one vendor of such drives.
Also, experienced users may try to create a flash drive with a CD-ROM partition from a typical USB stick manually. Here is a step-by-step guide explaining how this can be done.
How do they work? These USB drives contain a CD partition. An ISO disk image can be written to this partition; the ISO can contain an AutoStart menu, just like any normal CD. So the USB drive contains two partitions: one CD partition with your menu, and a second partition for user data.
To design the menu on the ISO (CD) partition, we recommend that you look at AutoPlay Menu Designer. The AutoPlay Visual Designer software builds engaging, professional-looking menus with graphics, links, and interactivity. Try it out!
2. The other option for autorun functionality is to preinstall a program that scans for USB sticks in USB ports.
Autorun USB Helper is one such program. Autorun USB Helper sits in the background and monitors the system for all new USB sticks connected to it. Once it detects a new USB drive it scans it for any autorun program on it and executes it thus emulating autorun feature that was disabled on Windows 7 for USB devices for security purposes. At the same time, the safety of the operation and authenticity of the executed file is guaranteed by strong checksum testing and the built-in white list.
There are two main steps to reaching this most favorable state of affairs: first use AutoPlay Menu Designer to publish your desired menu to the USB flash drive, and then configure Autorun USB Helper to display the menu automatically on insertion.
In AutoPlay Menu Designer, put the finishing touches on your menu (for instructions, see following tutorials ). Then publish the menu to the USB drive:
Your menu can now be opened through the Windows AutoPlay dialog whenever the USB drive is connected to a computer running on Windows XP. For computers running on Windows 7 and higher, you will need to use Autorun USB Helper to enable automatic menu display.
Quick guide for the Autorun USB Helper
First, download and install Autorun USB Helper, and once the setup completes you should see the program's icon in the system tray.
In fact, this is the only step you need to make USB autorun function again. However, for better security we recommend adding the files you want to run into the white list of Autorun USB Helper. To do this, right-click the system tray icon and select options:
Now the menu is configured to open every time when the USB device is connected. This process must be repeated on every client computer. When considering Autorun USB Helper, please remember that the process above works for only one computer at a time. Autorun USB Helper must be installed and configured individually on each and every computer in order for menus to display automatically; there is no "set and forget" option to enable autorun on the computers of all users.
As shown above, developers have a more difficult task in incorporating autorun functionality for their Windows 7/8/10 consumers, but the barriers are easily overcome with a bit of planning. U3-based solutions can be complicated: they require suitable hardware, preloading an ISO image, and cannot be changed by the user. However, they solve the problem of AutoPlay for Windows 7 users. Programs such as Autorun USB Helper offer affordable and easy-to-use solution that you can install on your computer for the best automatic menu display.
This special offer combines some of the slickest, most effective tools available for delivering a consistent user experience. So to the question, "Can AutoRun work on USB drives in Windows 7/8/10?" our answer is still a resounding "Yes!" Your users will thank you as well.
Good luck, and happy developing!