The AutoPlay function in Windows performs a pre-defined action whenever media is inserted, such as a CD or DVD, or when a removable drive is connected to the computer.

By default the AutoPlay action for any piece of media is to present the user with a menu of choices, but the user can also force a particular action for given types of media (for instance, launch a DVD player application when a DVD is inserted).

Some third-party programs disable AutoPlay functions to keep them from interfering with the program's operations, such as CD/DVD-burning applications. Usually the user is prompted about this issue before AutoPlay is disabled, but it's easy to forget that AutoPlay has been disabled (there are no system warnings to that effect), and once the program is removed, AutoPlay may not be restored. Even if you use a tool like Tweak UI to restore AutoPlay's defaults, it still may not work: The program in question may have added filter driver references to the CD-ROM device that prevents AutoPlay from working correctly.

To repair low-level problems with AutoPlay, Microsoft created a simple tool called the

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AutoPlay Repair Wizard for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. When run, it attempts to detect and repair AutoPlay problems in these categories:
  • The Shell Hardware Detection service. This service is the core of AutoPlay, and if it isn't running or has been disabled, the wizard will start it and set it to start automatically at boot time.
  • User policies. If a user or machine policy is prohibiting the use of AutoPlay, the wizard will note it and correct it.
  • Filter driver references. If there are problems with a filter driver reference interfering with AutoPlay on a given drive, the wizard will repair that problem as well.

When the wizard is finished, it generates a log of all its findings and actions, which is written to the current user's My Documents directory.

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Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- and please share your thoughts as well!

This was first published in September 2005

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