Both the AutoPlay and AutoRun features, available since Windows XP, are vulnerable areas commonly exploited as a spreading mechanism by some malware to target unprotected computers. The AutoRun function allows some programs to start automatically when a device such as a USB storage tool, CD, memory card, etc is inserted into a computer while AutoPlay is a Windows feature which will examine newly discovered removable media and devices and, based on content such as pictures, music or video files, allow users to select which program to run.

To address users’ concern about this weakness and increase users’ confidence, the Redmond company has introduced substantial changes to the AutoPlay and AutoRun functions in Windows 7. Users in Windows 7 would probably have realized that the AutoPlay feature no longer supports the AutoRun function for non-optical removable media. The AutoRun feature only works for CD/DVDs when these are inserted into a computer. However, when users insert a USB drive into a machine, the AutoRun task will not be initiated. With these changes, Microsoft hopes to reduce the chances for malicious program to leverage on the AutoRun weakness to initiate spreading.

Despite the new security approach applied in Windows 7, many users, especially commercial users and enterprises are more confident if the AutoPlay feature is completely disabled or shut down. This is essential especially in an office/workplace environment where users share common computers amongst themselves and the risk of spreading malware is relatively high. Hence, if you like to play save and rather play the mobile device manually instead of allowing Windows 7 to automatic play for you, you can go to the Control Panel and change the default setting accordingly.

To edit the default setting, users can go to Start -> Control Panel -> Hardware and Sound -> AutoPlay. In the AutoPlay item, users can click on to the Change default settings for media or devices.

Uncheck the box Use AutoPlay for all media and devices if you don’t like the AutoPlay feature to function automatically.

Users are also allowed to customize their preferred setting manually.