AutoPlay, Go Away


I have an Acer laptop running Windows XP Professional SP2. When I plug in my USB drive, I get an “access denied” error. Accessing the drive through Windows Explorer doesn’t bring up the error.

—Thuy Tran

Sounds like the result of AutoPlay trying to do something your computer isn’t expecting. This is how viruses spread, so the first thing to do is disable AutoPlay on your USB ports—this is good practice for anyone. To do this in Windows XP, download and install the Tweak UI PowerToy from Microsoft ( ). Run Tweak UI, then in the menu tree, expand My Computer, then AutoPlay, then click Drives. Uncheck any drive letter you don’t want AutoPlay using—we usually deselect everything but the optical drive. Then hit OK.

Now, plug in your USB drive. The access-denied error should not appear. But let’s dig a little deeper. Use your antivirus software and Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware to scan your USB drive for infections. Next, we’re going to check out the autorun entry on your device. Use Explorer to access the drive, go to the menu bar and hit Tools > Folder Options. Click the view tab, then click “Show hidden files and folders.” Uncheck “Hide protected operating system files” and hit OK. Then, back in Windows Explorer’s view of your USB stick, right-click autorun.inf and open it with Notepad. Make a note of whatever files it references, and if they’re on the USB stick and you don’t recognize them, delete them, then delete autorun.inf, just to be on the safe side. You should also consider updating your Windows XP installation to Service Pack 3 for greater security and reliability.

Turning off AutoPlay can go a long way toward protecting yourself from malware that spreads via removable media.

SUBMIT YOUR QUESTION Are flames shooting out of the back of your rig? First, grab a fire extinguisher and douse the flames. Once the pyrotechnic display has fizzled, email the doctor at for advice on how to solve your technological woes.

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