Is there a way to disable Steam from starting up automatically with Windows (XP/Vista/7) after installing it?

I fix systems for people and some of them request or have Steam, so I reinstall it for them. However, I want to prevent it from starting up with windows without having to log-in with an account. I can easily hack the registry, but I'm curious if there is an alternative way to disable it without going that route.

I also don't want to log-in with my own account; call it paranoia or whatever. :)

EDIT: It seems as though there's some confusion in this request judging from the confused answers, so maybe I should elaborate further on this.

I'm already deleting Steam's registry key from HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run, but I want to know if there is a way to get into the Steam client to disable/delete this key such that it won't repopulate that setting if you were to start it again manually. The reason for this is because if you start Steam again, there may be a chance that it will auto-start again (but I haven't confirmed this, so if anybody's done so already, feel free to let me know). UPDATE: Confirmed! Steam does not recreate the registry key. See my last comment under the answer I selected.

What I'm trying to accomplish is sort of like a pseudo-sysprep where the user will get a freshly re-imaged machine with everything set at default values but optimized to boot faster without annoying programs starting up on you. Since Steam starts up for the first time with a first-run wizard prompt, the only way to get in and change the setting (that I can see) is to login with an existing account (or a create a new one but that seems moot if the user already has an account). I'd like for that wizard to stay where it is instead of it popping up with my own account being the last account logged on when they first launch Steam (it's just unprofessional), and I also want to keep Steam from auto-starting on my customers with Windows yet again.

Maybe I'm asking this in the wrong area, but I'm sure there must be some other IT pros like me who run into these problems (with Steam or other programs). If there's no way to do it, then I'll just keep on trucking with the registry edits.

Sorry for the level 99 difficulty of this question; I googled for answers well before asking this question and I realized that this is a very specific request, so I thought I'd ask the internet for help with it.

Thanks again, everybody!

  • 1
    are you asking how to disable auto-start of Steam when logging into windows, or are you wanting it to ask for the password on every Steam login?
    – DrFish
    Commented Oct 30, 2011 at 21:11
  • 4
    Checked msconfig yet? Apps that want to run at startup usually will list themselves there.
    – happy_soil
    Commented Oct 30, 2011 at 21:24
  • "...but want it to not auto-start without having to login with an account..", you mean you want it to auto-start without having to log in with an account? Commented Oct 30, 2011 at 21:30
  • 1
    Steam is being stupid, making you log in before doing anything. sigh
    – Jay Bazuzi
    Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 3:29
  • 1
    @James Jiao: No, he means that he wants to turn off the auto-start behavior, but the Steam preferences dialog is not normally made available unless you first log in. Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 11:08

6 Answers 6


If you want to do this without starting Steam and logging in, you can modify the setting in the Windows registry. The autostart checkbox is directly tied to a registry key — simply deleting it is all the Steam client does when said checkbox is unchecked.

Navigate to HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run and delete the Steam key. Or as a .reg file:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

  • Please see the updated description above why I'm trying to veer away from a registry access solution. Thanks! :) Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 0:17
  • Well, this is technically the correct answer, but not the answer I was hoping to find. :) Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 1:49
  • UPDATE: After getting an idea to try setting Steam to auto-start on my own computer, I changed the setting in Steam, closed the client, deleted the registry key, restarted Steam, and found that it didn't recreate the registry key AND it reflected that setting in Steam's configuration. So looks like the registry key isn't a temporary solution. Kudos to everybody for pointing me in the right direction! Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 1:59
  • @ChickenBall Yup, that's what I meant with directly tied -- Steam doesn't save that setting separately, it just looks at the registry key.
    – a cat
    Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 2:01
  • Thanks for giving me the idea to test that theory. And thanks to everybody else for their prompt responses! We're all winners here! :) Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 2:04

If Steam is running

In Steam, right-click on the icon in the the taskbar and select Settings, or from the full client, in the menu bar, select Steam, then Settings.

Click on the Interface tab, and in the middle of the window, clear the check box that reads Run Steam when my computer starts.

If Steam is not running

Run msconfig.exe. Under the Startup tab, look for the Steam entry and clear its check box. This will clear the corresponding setting in Steam as well. Even if Steam is restarted this will not be re-enabled without specifying in the application to do so.

  • 1
    I already know about this setting, but if you read my description above, I do not want to login to Steam. The only way to access Steam's menu and therefore this setting is to login. Thanks for your response anyway! Commented Oct 30, 2011 at 21:12
  • 3
    You clearly said in your description that you do not want it to auto-start. You might want to reword your description. Commented Oct 30, 2011 at 21:31
  • @Yawhann, sorry, it was not clear to me which problem you were having. I've updated my answer to provide both. Commented Oct 30, 2011 at 21:48
  • @James Jiao Sorry for the confusion, I've updated the original description to reflect the reasoning behind the request. Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 0:14
  • 1
    @Yawhann, unfortunately Steam is like most apps that use the registry: they're assuming that you are going to use the app to change settings. If you want a solution that would fit with setup scripts you probably have, and ghosting isn't practical, you can try something like this. Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 0:40
  1. Go to start menu
  2. In the left hand corner search, type msconfig and hit enter
  3. Go to the Start up tab
  4. Untick tick Steam in list and reboot.

In recent versions of Windows (8+), you can easily disable it from the Start-up tab of Task Manager, which you can quickly open by clicking CTRLSHIFTESC or by right clicking the start button.

Task Manager. Start-Up. Steam Client Bootstrapper. Disable


You can do it with Glary Utilities, a useful group of tools that you can install for free.

  • Another one that I use is CCleaner. It too can edit settings on startup programs.
    – IAmGroot
    Commented Apr 7, 2012 at 16:44

Log into steam, go to the Steam menu at the top left, go to settings, go to interface, un check Run Steam when my computer starts.

This is the way it is made to work, stay away from all the hacks, it will only make things worse.

  • 2
    He's asking how to disable it WITHOUT logging into an account.
    – Frank
    Commented Dec 5, 2013 at 4:55

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