Win10 1709’s most irksome ‘feature’: Programs come back from the dead

Win10 Fall Creators Update has a nasty habit of re-launching programs on reboot. In spite of repeated, pointed criticism, Microsoft is digging in its heels — or just ignoring the problem and hoping it'll go away.

Win10 1709’s most irksome ‘feature’: Programs come back from the dead

Here’s a quick question. In Windows, if you have a program running when you reboot your machine, does Windows:

  1. Start up clean, regardless of what was running at the time of shutdown?
  2. Boot, then automatically launch all of the previously running programs?
  3. Give you an option, to choose between 1 and 2?

The answer? In every version of Windows that I’ve used (going back to Windows 286), it’s clearly the first option. Of course you don’t want your old junk to come back. Cleaning out and starting fresh is a, uh, time-honored Windows tradition.

But in Win10 Fall Creators Update — version 1709 — the answer is 2.

I have no idea why Microsoft made that change. The only time I want to reboot, these days, is when Windows is horrendously clogged up. Granted, your results may vary: You may want to have that YouTube video to reappear at full volume, you may expect your VPN to jump back up and reconnect, you may enjoy getting Firefox stuck in a malvertising loop. But for most of us, I daresay, having the programs come back from the dead is absolutely what we don’t want.

I could cut Microsoft some slack if it had documented this “feature” in a way that makes some sense, and I’d certainly appreciate an Option C. But that isn’t happening. Many people, including most gurus I know, have no idea why it happens — or how to turn it off.

Complaints about reawakening the 1709 dead surfaced on the Microsoft Answers forum way back on Aug. 10 of last year. Poster antonio8909 explained:

In this build I have a problem with Chrome and NordVPN. When I turn off the PC and I log in the next day, it recovers the lastest pages visited in Chrome and it open automatically NordVPN I have fast startup disabled and the option "use my login info for complete updates" disabled and the problem is still here.

Worth noting: That complaint predates the release of 1709 by more than two months. The thread goes on for 37 pages — hundreds of entries.

Old procedures to prevent programs from launching don't work

Most of us who have used Windows know how to stifle programs that start when Windows boots. But the old procedures don’t work in the new 1709 world. Starting with the Fall Creators Update, running apps are flagged internally by Windows, then brought back on reboot — there’s no \Start folder, nothing hidden in Run or RunOnce registry keys, no autostart entries.

It’s a hugely unpopular setting, for those who have been bitten by it. Microsoft sorta announced it back last July, as part of the beta build 16251 documentation:

Use sign-in info to apply settings after a restart or update: The advanced Windows Update feature to use your sign-in info to automatically finish setting your device after an update has been extended to regular reboots and shutdowns. When you log in and initiate a reboot or a shutdown through power options available on the Start Menu and various other locations, Windows will automatically setup your account after it has booted back up.

This will help you sign-in faster and will restore your accessibility applications and any other application that has registered for application restart.

Which, judging from this lengthy Feedback Hub post, is exactly what many people don’t want. Poster AOMC, on the Microsoft Answers forum, puts it simply:

Another really big UX issue with the new app-auto-restart behavior is that it conflicts and creates confusion with the idea of "apps that start with Windows". In other words, when should I worry about the checkbox in the app that says "Start with Windows" vs just leaving the app open and expecting it to auto-restart in any case?

Previously it used to be very clear to me which apps start with Windows — the ones in which I toggle that setting for "Start with Windows" and the ones that I manually drag and drop into the auto-start folder (or for which I manually add registry entries). Now, it's a combination of that plus SOME apps that manage to auto-restart with Windows if they were open during shutdown.

So if I restart Windows and see that Spotify automatically starts blasting music for some reason (especially when Windows Update sometimes resets my volume level to 100%), I'm confused about WHY. I go into Spotify's settings and see that I don't have it set to start with Windows. Then I scratch my head and wonder why in the world Spotify and Chrome both auto-restart automatically if many of my other apps don't auto-restart. And then I'm totally confused about what to do and who in their right mind came up with this logic.

The odd, unexpected behavior has stumped many Windows experts. Having an internal secret checklist of programs that reopen on boot sounds to me like an ideal way to make malware persistent. Who in the blue blazes comes up with this stuff?

IctToolBox has a registry hack to circumvent the bad behavior, but it’s likely to have all sorts of unintended consequences.

I wish I could tell you that Microsoft is coming up with an Option C — a simple setting that lets you choose one behavior or the other. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. In its place, we’re being offered yet another obfuscated kludge, which is on track to appear in Win10 1803 in March or April. According to the official announcement for Win10 beta build 17040, stuck at the end of a long list of General changes,

Based on your feedback, the feature to restore applications that have registered for application restart after you reboot or shutdown (through power options available on the Start Menu and various other locations) has been set to only occur for users that have enabled “Use my sign-in info to automatically finish setting my device after an update or restart” in the Privacy section under Sign-in Options Settings.

It isn’t clear to me if Microsoft is switching 1803 to Option A or Option B by default. Clearly the Win10 gods intend to piggyback on an existing setting to confuse the bewilickers out of everybody. It’s precisely the wrong way to handle something that affects every single Windows 10 user.

Thx to @b.

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