That pesky Windows autorun dialog for removable media

The device pictured is a 128MiB PNY Attaché US...

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I have long detested the Windows autorun dialog which opens up when you insert removable media into the machine. The autorun feature has been heavily leveraged by all and sundry. The infamous Sony rootkit fiasco used that, respectables like Adobe love to give you some starter PhotoAlbum as a rider to some download you want and from then on, autorun offers to do additional things to every USB flash you insert. Whiz! Autorun for CDs is also famous for interfering with early attempts at CD / DVD burning and device useage contention in virtual machines.
The breaking point came for me when my precious USB stick got infected by virus/malware, promising to spread to my own Windows machines. Since that time, I have switched off all autorun on all drives on the computers I use. Which isn’t a big problem for me, I prefer to explicitly run Herr Ghisler’s Total Commander to see what’s what.
The other day, I spotted DeskDrive from one of my RSS feeds. It’s a little app, it only does It’s still early days in my use but this little app is really giving me a wow! experience. It dynamically puts drive icons on your Windows desktop (and removes them when they are disconnected). That’s all it does.
I remember a colleague who wanted to dominate the corporate LAN. He would create drive icon shortcuts to all the LAN drives for staff machines. I asked him what would happen to those notebooks or even desktops where staff routinely forget whether they are logged on or not. If they were not logged on or attached, those drive icons would be irrelevant and confuse the very people they were supposed to help. He gave me one of those withering stares. And for the next few years, Helpdesk had to patiently explain that even though the drive icon was there, the drive might not be there, if LAN connection had been terminated, if they were not logged in or if they were plainly at home.
Part of the charm of Deskdrive is the developer. He’s hit what many of us in the software industry hit often – adding a feature or resolving a bug creates new ones….. But there’s “moment of truth” from him and that’s always precious in this world where the author of the program is insulated from the end users by other corporate divisions. To the extent that Microsoft had a WYSYP campaign
Oh, one disclaimer – some corporates and relationships really want you to have your autorun untampered with, and working. In which case, you didn’t hear this from me.

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2 Responses to “That pesky Windows autorun dialog for removable media”

  1. Malcolm

    Windows does not “autorun” USB memory sticks. You will always be prompted with an “autoplay” dialog.

  2. AnandaSim

    Hi Malcolm,
    Thanks for your interest. Windows does respond to autorun.inf on memory sticks – all someone or some malware needs to do is to create an autorun.inf file, put it at the root folder of the memory stick and put a run entry in there pointing to an executable file. If you put an .ico reference in the autorun.inf, the memory stick on insertion will display the icon. If you put a text label in autorun.inf, the memory stick will be labelled like this in Windows explorer. See this


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