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What is AutoPlay?
AutoPlay examines the types of files on a removable media device, such as a USB drive, a CD, or even a DVD, and presents options for how to handle the device. Since USB devices can range from thumb drives carrying documents to large external hard drives storing hours of video and music, AutoPlay can come in especially handy.
While AutoPlay is enabled by default in Windows 7, there are many options for configuring AutoPlay to your personal preference. USB devices containing video files, for instance, can be set to run a video player automatically. Devices with music or photos can be set to launch the appropriate programs for those. Or, you can tell AutoPlay to do nothing at all.
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Understanding AutoPlay for a USB Device
AutoPlay settings for USB devices are located in the located in the Control Panel. To access and change AutoPlay settings, click on the Windows start button and select Control Panel. Next, click Hardware and Sound and then AutoPlay.
For each type of media that may be inserted into your computer, there are multiple options for how to handle such media automatically. By default, when a USB drive is plugged in to a computer running Windows 7, it is examined for the prevalent types of media (photos, movies, music, etc.) stored on the device. After it has been scanned, the AutoPlay window appears, and asks you what you would like to do.
Since USB devices typically store a wide variety of media, there isn't a dedicated area for selecting a default action for USB devices in the AutoPlay settings window, as there are for DVDs or CDs. Instead, you select how to handle a USB device depending upon what types of media are stored on the device. For instance, if a USB device primarily contains photos, it will be handled under the "Pictures" setting in the AutoPlay settings window. If a USB device contains many photos, music files, and some video content, then it would likely be see as "Mixed content" and would be handled as such.
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Ensuring AutoPlay is Enabled
AutoPlay is enabled by default in Windows 7. You can change this setting by ticking the box next to "Use AutoPlay for all media and devices" at the top of the AutoPlay settings window. Unticking this box will not prevent AutoPlay from launching when a USB device is plugged into a computer if the media on that device falls into an existing setting for AutoPlay. For instance, if you have set AutoPlay to launch Windows Media Player when a USB device containing video files is plugged in, but you have unticked "Use AutoPlay for all media and devices," Windows Media Player will still launch when that USB device is inserted into a USB slot.