How-To Tuesday: Disable AutoRun on Windows!


Yes, this is a bit of a report from our post Monday, but we feel disabling Autorun is extremely important. Last week we went off to buy a CD—something we, like a lot of people, do on a regular basis. We wanted to check out "Contraband" by Velvet Revolver, the group formed by ex-members of Guns N' Roses, and the lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots. We figured with that much drugs in those boys, there's bound to be a good tune or two in there.

As with all our CDs, we unwrapped 8 layers of plastic on the way to the car and popped it in the CD player for the ride home, so far, so good—not a bad CD at all. After arriving home, we put the CD in our Xbox (as we always do with our CDs) to copy the songs over to the hard drive for use with games or as a jukebox.

Next up, inserted the disc in to our Mac, started iTunes and then iTunes put the newly created MP3s on our iPod. Also, the Linux box in our kitchen (Xandros) was able to read and make MP3s just fine too.

Lastly, we popped the CD in our PC (Win XP) and also ran iTunes to add the songs to our library.

Was this all a dream? Did it really happen? It did. But it shouldn't have if it were up to the people who made that CD.

After looking around on the web it seems the folks from RCA Records actually don't want anyone to make MP3s of the songs on that disc, they don't want you to listen to the music you just purchased on your iPod or even your Xbox.

The disc has "Copy Protection" from SunnComm called MediaMax, which on some Windows systems will force the user to install software in order to listen to their music, and restrict what they do with the audio (for example you cannot make MP3s). If SunnComm sounds familiar, they should. These are the folks who were going to sue a Princeton student for 10 million dollars for writing a paper that showed by pressing the shift key while inserting the CD (and of course, pressing the shift key still worked on this CD, according to all reports) you can bypass their copy protection.

Sadly, the way RCA and SunnComm want you to listen to music is pretty complicated. You'd need to insert the CD on your PC, wait up to one minute for it to load, click an end user agreement, then only "listen" to the music. Oh, wait there's more. It installs software which blocks making MP3s and it requires a web connection to exchange "data" and keys. On the disc there were music files in WMA format, but they don't seem to play on any device we have which plays WMAs—the site says they play only on "approved" devices. Yikes!

Well, for us, it wasn't an issue. Why? Well, we have always disabled "Auto-Run" on our Windows based system, since, like, Windows 95. The "feature" will, by default, automatically look for a file called Autorun.inf on any CD you pop in to your system—if it finds it, it will execute whatever programs it is instructed. This is a big security issue, as there are a lot of spywares and viruses distributed on CDs—so much so, in fact, Microsoft is disabling it in their next security-focused Windows XP Service Pack 2. SunnComn and everyone else who is trying to "copy protect" music CDs have really only one option, and this is it: using the autorun file on their music CDs to install their proprietary DRM software. But many people are becoming more vigilant about securing their systems.

Disabling Auto-Run is something we think everyone should do, not only for security from viruses and spyware, but so you'll never need to deal being unable able to listen to your music on your devices. Here's how to do it in Windows XP.

In Windows Click Start, then Click Run


Type regedit
Click OK


Click >


Double click "Autorun" the value is set to 1 by default, change it to zero.


Click OK
Now restart, that's it!

We also created a file which will do this for you, just right click this link and "save target as" to your local file system. Then double click and restart.

Please, tell everyone to disable autorun, use our email option, IM your pals, whatever it takes.

If you a different Operating system or would like to learn more about disabling AutoRun, here's a great article too.