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What Is AutoPlay?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2014
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AutoPlay is a feature found in Windows® operating systems (OS) since Windows XP®, which allows media that is inserted into a drive or connected to a computer to play automatically. This feature will typically create a window that asks if a person wishes to use a certain program in order to play the files on a disc that has been inserted into a drive. The options provided will usually depend on the types of files on the disc or device connected to the computer. AutoPlay also allows a user to indicate that all similar media in the future should be opened using the selected program as well.

First established with Windows XP®, the AutoPlay feature was designed and implemented in order to make media playback easier for computer users. Prior to this addition, whenever a compact disc (CD) or similar media was placed inside of a disc drive, the user would have to select that drive and tell the system what he or she wanted to do with it. With the advent of AutoPlay, however, the OS will search inserted media in order to establish what types of files are on it, and then recommend or use whatever program is appropriate to play those files.

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For example, if a CD featuring music files is inserted into a computer with an appropriate Windows® OS, the OS will detect those music files on the disc. An AutoPlay window will then popup indicating the appropriate program to use to play those music files, typically Windows Media Player®. The user can then easily choose to play the music through that program. A computer user can also indicate that in the future, whenever a similar disc with music files is inserted into the computer, it should use AutoPlay to play those files through that program without further prompting.

This is somewhat similar to AutoRun, a feature introduced in earlier versions of the Windows® OS that automatically runs a program or executable found on a disc or other media accessible by the computer. AutoRun is typically used to find executable files on an install disc for a new program, and automatically begin the installation procedure to make the process easier for users. While many computer users enjoy the ease of AutoPlay, there are also users who prefer to be able to manually select the program and files they wish to play. Since AutoPlay opens in a separate window, it is typically quite easy to simply close the window and then access the files on the media directly in order to play them as the user sees fit.

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