Troubleshooting Windows Startup Using Autoruns

Recently, my Windows laptop started the odd behaviour of hanging every time I logged in. It didn’t blue screen; rather, it just froze completely every time the desktop came up. This is a pretty uncommon scenario so I figured that one of my installed applications was misbehaving. I didn’t have the time nor the inclination to muck around with the Run registry key and its ilk, so I turned to Autoruns for Windows to help me diagnose the issue.

Autoruns lets you view and disable pretty much anything that starts up with Windows — drivers, services, Explorer extensions, tasks that run at Logon, and many others.

Autoruns Main UI

Since I was seeing the hang on Logon, I rebooted into Safe Mode and used Autoruns to disable various programs listed under the Logon tab. After going through this cycle a couple of times, I figured out that my VPN client was causing the hang.

Unfortunately I needed the VPN client to connect to my corporate network so I had to keep digging. Eventually, I had a vague recollection of seeing this problem before, when enabling kernel debugging on a test machine, but not connecting the debugger. <SMACK> For some reason, I had enabled kernel debugging then forgotten about it. I quickly disabled this option via ‘bcdedit /debug off ‘and reboot my machine.

After getting my system up and running again, I used Autoruns to re-enable the programs that I had previously disabled. Now I just have to remember to not enable kernel debugging on my dev box…

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