Computer user touching on Microsoft word icon to open the program.
Image: wachiwit/Adobe Stock

If you’re like me, you work in the same Microsoft 365 app or browser from day to day. Once you turn on your computer, you open the same app or browser to start working. If you’d like to eliminate the task of opening these apps and files, turn to Windows. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to force Windows to open specified software and files every time you turn on the computer.

SEE: Google Workspace vs. Microsoft 365: A side-by-side analysis w/checklist (TechRepublic Premium) 

I’m using Microsoft 365 on a Windows 10 system, but this technique isn’t specific to Windows 10. Although I’m working with Microsoft 365 apps and Microsoft Edge, this will work with most Microsoft software.

How to launch a specific Microsoft 365 app at startup

The first thing I do every morning is check email. It’s not difficult to launch Outlook manually, but there’s nothing wrong with eliminating that task. Fortunately, Windows will open Outlook for me when I turn on the computer. To accomplish this, do the following:

  1. Click the Start button — the icon that looks like a window to the far left of the task bar.
  2. Locate Outlook in the resulting list of apps. Out of the box, the Start button is in the bottom-left, but mine is at the top of the screen.
  3. Right-click Outlook and select More (Figure A).
  4. Select the Open File Location option in the resulting submenu. Doing so will open the startup folder where Windows stores shortcut links. If there’s no Open File Location option, you can’t open this software at startup.
  5. When the option is available, copy the selected shortcut to the Clipboard by pressing Ctrl + C (Figure B).
  6. Press the Windows log key + R.
  7. In the resulting dialog, enter shell:startup (Figure C).
  8. Click OK to open the Windows startup folder.
  9. Paste the Outlook shortcut into the Startup folder by pressing Ctrl + V.

Figure A

Find Outlook on the Start menu.

Figure B

Copy Outlook’s shortcut

Figure C

Enter the command to open the Startup folder.

You might see a lag between the time Windows appears to be ready and when Windows starts to open the specified software or file so be patient that first time. Adding items to the startup folder will slow down startup time a bit.

You might be curious about the Windows features you just used. The Windows startup folder contains links to programs you want to launch automatically when you turn on your computer. You can store links to programs, scripts and files.

The shell:startup command opens the Windows startup folder, so you don’t have to go looking for it in the folder hierarchy. Once you copy the Outlook link to that folder, Windows will open Outlook every time you start your computer. To remove the link, repeat steps six through eight to open the startup folder and delete the Outlook link.

To reduce startup time, be sure to close everything before rebooting the computer. Using the Windows startup folder, you can also open a file when you start the computer.

How to launch a specific Microsoft 365 file at startup

Windows can also open a file at startup, if you put a shortcut link to it in the Windows startup folder. To create the shortcut, do the following:

  1. Using File Explorer, locate the file you want to open when starting your computer.
  2. Right-click that file and choose Create Shortcut (Figure D).
  3. Press the Windows log key + R.
  4. In the resulting dialog, enter shell:startup.
  5. Click OK to open the Windows startup folder.
  6. Paste the shortcut to the app from the file location to the Startup folder by pressing Ctrl + V, as shown in Figure E.

Figure D

Create a shortcut for the file.

Figure E

Paste the shortcut in the Windows startup folder.

Using the Windows startup window, you can launch software and individual files when you start your computer. Try not to add too many items to this folder — you will slow things down too much if you overwhelm the system.