Problem

Contrary
to what you may have heard from the RIAA, burning a CD or DVD is not illegal.
In many situations, the burned CD is the best way to distribute information to
a target audience. For communications involving PowerPoint presentations, HTML,
PDF forms, Flash animations, or a number of other applications, the portable
and durable CD has become a common delivery method.

The
compact disk drive auto play feature, common to most operating systems, is a
good way to simplify user experience. Auto play is controlled by a simple
text-only file called autorun.inf.
While there are dozens of software utilities available that will help you create the file, all you
really need is a text editor and some basic knowledge.


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Solution 1

The
basic configuration of the autorun.inf states the program that is to be run when the CD
or DVD is inserted in the drive and the icon that is to be displayed when the
disk is viewed by Windows Explorer or other directory listing application. The
text-only file, which resides in the root directory of the CD, should something
look like this:

[autorun]
open=myprogram.exe
icon=myicon.ico

The
icon file should also reside in the root directory of the CD.

Variations

Often
the program you want to run will not be located in the root directory of the
CD. If that is the case you must include the path in autorun.inf:

[autorun]
open=folder1\folder1A\myfile.exe
icon=myicon.ico

Sometimes
you may also need to pass an argument to the program to be auto played:

[autorun]
open=myprogram.exe /argument
icon=myicon.ico

Not a program

Sending
customers, salespeople, investors, and employees presentations, PDF files, and
HTML documents requires a slight variation to the basic autorun.inf file. One solution is
the addition of a DOS batch file to the CD root directory. The autorun.inf file
opens a batch file, which then opens the file using the default program
designated for that file type. For example:

[autorun]
open=autorun.bat index.htm
icon=myicon.ico

Where
the autorun.bat
file reads:

echo off@start %1 %2 %3 %4 %5 %6 %7 %8 %9@exit

Using
the autorun.inf
file to auto play your burned CDs will prevent another headache for your users
and increase the likelihood of reaching your target audience. And because it is
a simple text file, it can be created with a text editor and your normal disk
burning software.

Solution 2

While
creating your autorun.inf
file according to Solution 1 will work for most of your users, it will fail for
a small percentage of users who have issues with the autorun
function in their particular installation of Windows. The batch file in the
first solution is very rudimentary and makes no allowances for errors. It will
unceremoniously fail when an error is encountered.


Extending the solution

Solution
2 was added after the original Solution Base article was published after
several TechRepublic members used the article discussion to note the benefits of using shell utilities
for the autorun process.


This
is where a shell utility can save the day, because these little apps contain
routines for handling common errors and will often complete the autorun process even if an error is encountered. For this
example, we’ll use autorun.exe, which
can be downloaded from Tarma Software Research. Tarma
has made autorun.exe freely available
for both personal and commercial use and there are no requirements for
copyright notices, etc.

To use
autorun.exe, you make a simple
modification to the autorun.inf
file by replacing the autorun.bat
from Solution 1. The basic autorun.inf would look like this:

[autorun]
open=autorun.exe index.htm
icon=myicon.ico

The
only other requirement is that a copy of the 8Kb autorun.exe file be included in the root directory of each burned
CD. This application also contains several options and supports an extended autorun.inf
structure that provides more flexibility in how you design your CD or DVD
package.