Windows Vista’s AutoPlay options are a great improvement over Windows XP in terms of flexibility, but unfortunately there are so many options that it can be confusing, especially since there’s no specific mention of USB Flash drives in the options.

Open your Control Panel, and then click on “Play CDs or other media automatically” to open the AutoPlay dialog.

Disable AutoPlay Globally

The quickest way to disable AutoPlay entirely is to just uncheck the box for “Use AutoPlay for all media and devices”, which should usually work.

Disable for a Single Type

You can choose a setting in the drop-down menu for a single type of drive, for instance Audio CD in this example. For this to work you’ll have to make sure to keep the global autoplay option on, and then choose the specific setting in the drop-down.

Disable for just Removable (flash) Drives

The problem here is that while there are settings for Audio CDs and DVDs, there’s nothing specifically for USB flash drives. Windows will determine the drive type based on the content it finds on the flash drive itself, so that’s what we’ll need to change.

In order to disable AutoPlay for the removable drives, you should change all of the following to Take no action: Software and games, Pictures, Video files, Audio files, and Mixed content.


Disable Through Group Policy

A number of readers have written in complaining that the option to disable autoplay isn’t working for them, so if you’d like to disable it entirely you can use the Group Policy editor on the Business and Ultimate versions of Vista.

Open up gpedit.msc through the start menu search box, browse to Windows Components \ AutoPlay Policies, and change the value of “Turn off Autoplay” to enabled.

You can choose whether to disable for just removable devices, or entirely. I’m not sure if that makes any sense, however.

Disable with Registry Hack

The Group Policy editor is not available on Windows Vista Home editions, so I’ve also included the registry tweak to disable AutoPlay entirely.

Download and unzip this registry hack and then double-click on the appropriate file.

  • DisableAutoPlay.reg will disable autoplay entirely.
  • DisableAutoPlayRemovable.reg will disable autoplay on removable devices.

Hopefully all your AutoPlay questions are now answered!

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Lowell is the founder and CEO of How-To Geek. He’s been running the show since creating the site back in 2006. Over the last decade, Lowell has personally written more than 1000 articles which have been viewed by over 250 million people. Prior to starting How-To Geek, Lowell spent 15 years working in IT doing consulting, cybersecurity, database management, and programming work.
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