Use AutoRuns to gain insight into your Windows Server 2003's inner workings

There's a lot going on with your Windows Server 2003—and you've probably only seen a fraction of all the programs running on your system at any one time. Scott Lowe introduces the AutoRuns utility, which can present you with a complete list of every program and executable for troubleshooting or reference purposes.

When you install Windows Server 2003 and start to place applications on that server, it's absolutely astounding how many programs are actually there. If you've used msconfig, you've gotten a partial look at a list of these programs. Msconfig provides you with a small subset of the actual executables that are loaded when you use a Windows server. Using the AutoRuns utility, available for download from Microsoft's Web site, you can get the complete list of programs and executables that are loaded when a Windows server boots or when you run certain applications.

AutoRuns looks at every known location that houses boot files, including the StartUp folder, the Run and RunOnce registry keys, Explorer shell extensions, toolbars, browser helper objects, Winlogon notifications, autostart services, and a number of other locations. AutoRuns displays each item in the order that Windows processes the item, and provides a Properties page that matches the page you get if you locate the executable file on your own and bring up the Properties page.

AutoRuns also provides a Jump To link that takes you directly to the location that loads the executable. For example, if you use the Jump To link on an entry that is loaded from the registry, AutoRuns will load the registry editor and browse to the key. You can also configure AutoRuns to look at the entries that are loaded for a particular user.

Figure A gives you a look at AutoRuns with explorer.exe as the active entry. Note that there are a lot of tabs; each gives you a look at files that load from different locations.

Figure A: AutoRuns with explorer.exe in the forefront.

AutoRuns also comes in a command line variety, named Autorunsc.exe. Use autorunsc /? to get information from particular startup locations.

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