Sunday, March 1, 2009

Windows Autorun/Autoplay Problems

I recently did some major scrubbing and upgrading of my system, and as is often the case, broke something in the process.

My PC had gotten sluggish; it needed a good cleaning and more memory. Norton had flagged a couple of downloaders and a Trojan Webkit that it couldn’t remove, or quarantine, so I decided just to nuke it and start over.

Confident that I had a good backup, I popped the hood and added another 2 gig of RAM, then reloaded Windows. Next I spent about 2 hours researching and removing all of the useless crap that comes bundled on the reload disks. Once I was happy with it, I plugged in the network cable and began downloading and applying all of the security patches and updates that had come out for service pack 2, culminating in the application of service pack 3. Done, or so I thought

The computer was running great. It was clean as a whistle and fast as lightning, and I was a happy man. That is, until the first time I popped a CD into one of the drives.., and nothing happened.

Normally the Autoplay wizard fires up when you insert or connect any media or media devices into your PC. It’s the little wizard that pops up and asks you what you’d like to do with said media. Insert a CD, DVD, USB drive or connect a camera or MP3 player, and it asks you to choose a program to open, play or import data with. It’s not a necessity to have, but it sure makes life easy.

If I opened up My Computer, I could see the media mounted in the drive, so I could use it, but something was blocking Autoplay from starting. I checked all of my settings, and found the process was enabled on all of the drives, so I began searching the Interwebs for an answer.

First I found this document on the Microsoft Help and Support site. It described the problem to a T, and came to the conclusion that the problem was caused by having certain versions of Easy CD Creator loaded on the machine. The fix was to remove the software, and then make some registry changes to re-enable Autoplay. Not having this program, I continued to search for an answer more appropriate for my situation.

Then I found this link to an Autoplay Repair Wizard available from the Microsoft Download Center. After verifying the authenticity of my copy of Windows, Microsoft allowed me to download and run the wizard, which indeed found a problem, fixed it, and wrote the changes and results to a log file. The wizard requires you to log out and then log back in to complete the fix, and once I did, the system immediately recognized the CD I had in one of the drives and fired up the Autoplay feature. Sweet.

Just to be certain I had the problem licked, I switched the CD to the secondary drive. I’m glad I did, because I found that I wasn’t done. I ended up having to run the wizard on all of my drives and ports, one at a time, with a logout in between each. For the USB drives, I had to insert a thumb drive to get them to show up in the wizard’s device repair list, but once I fixed the first one, they all began to work again. It was a bit tedious, but it looks like my system is finally back to normal.

This must be a fairly common problem, as Microsoft has come up with a repair wizard for it. The last puzzler I had like this was the Media Center black screen problem, which they also had a wizard to fix. My post on that problem, and repair, has been the top visited post via keyword search on my blog for over 6 months now, so I hope this one proves to be just as helpful.

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