Dating back to Windows 95 , Autorun allows an inserted CD-ROM to launch a function automatically, for example by installing a program, when the disc is inserted. This isn’t always good news. It’s how some malware, like rootkits, can be installed without your knowledge. Usually the disc has a file on it called Autorun.inf that tells it what to do when inserted.
If you hold down the Shift key while inserting a CD-ROM/DVD-ROM, you can bypass Autorun most of the time. It works in Windows 95 to XP, but not in Windows Vista . Even in older versions of Windows it’s not necessarily foolproof, but it has been successfully used to circumvent some copy-protection schemes installed on music CDs since around 2004.
To disable Autorun for good in XP/Vista,you need to edit the Registry. As always, before you edit this database, it’s smart to make a backup of it.
Click the Start button, then go to the Run command.
Type regedit and hit Return to open the Registry Editor. (In Vista, you’ll probably have to click OK in the User Account Control warning dialog box.)
Go to the following Registry key:
Double-click on Autorun, and you’ll see a default value of 1. Change it to 0 (zero). Then restart the computer.
After you go to all this trouble, don’t double-click that autorun.inf file on the disk—it can still run if you do.
Autorun should not be confused with AutoPlay, which debuted in Windows XP . The latter features a dialog box that pops up when you insert a CD or DVD filled with electronic media—pictures, music, or video. It will ask you what to do with the data, whether to rip music to iTunes, for example. If the disc is empty, it may ask if you want to write any data to it. You can usually tell XP/Vista not to bother you again when one of these dialogs pops up. If that doesn’t work . . .
In XP, right-click on a drive icon and select Properties. Each removable drive has an AutoPlay tab where you can preset what you want to happen. You can also use the TweakUI PowerToy to disable AutoPlay across drives. In Vista, an entirely new control panel exists just for setting global AutoPlay settings. If you turn off AutoPlay everywhere, you can still bring it up when you insert a CD–by holding down the Shift key.