If NoAutoRun.reg doesn’t work, you may need space

Dennis o'reilly By Dennis O’Reilly

The way word-wrapping alters line breaks in some browser windows thwarted a few of our readers’ attempts to disable AutoRun.

If you manually typed a line break where the code requires a space, and you couldn’t get the file to work, a simple change will do the trick.

Windows Secrets contributing editor Woody Leonhard authored a Jan. 22 Top Story on the Conficker/Downadup worm and included a link to a Nov. 8, 2007, article.

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That article, by associate editor Scott Dunn, explained how to add a Registry key to block Windows’ AutoRun function. After you do this, if you unknowingly insert a hacked CD, DVD, USB drive, or other external drive, it won’t automatically infect your PC. The technique involves copying and pasting three lines of code into a NoAutoRun.reg file, then right-clicking the file, merging it into the Registry, and rebooting.

One of the lines of code is very long and looks as follows (it’s all one line, but it word-wraps to two lines in small windows):

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionIniFileMappingAutorun.inf

Reader Rob Oppenheim wasn’t the only reader who found that merging into the Registry the file he created had no effect, because he’d entered a line break where his e-mail program had word-wrapped that line:
  • “In your [most recent] newsletter, you refer to a Web page that describes how to disable autoruns. The page describes a .reg file with a key that displays broken across two lines (at least on my machine it displays that way). Unfortunately, it’s not obvious that there’s a space in the key; that is, it should be ‘Windows NT’ and not ‘WindowsNT.’

    “The page does explain that the key should be all on one line but does not mention that the space is required.”
If this key shows up in your e-mail program as a single line, all is fine. However, if it wraps to two lines between “Windows” and “NT,” and you manually type in the key, you may not realize that there should be a space between the two words, not a carriage return.

Regardless how the Registry key appears in your browser, if you copy the lines from Scott’s article and paste them into your text editor to create a NoAutoRun.reg file, the space between “Windows” and “NT” will be included.

Delete the key to restore your AutoRun

Several people tried life without AutoRun and decided they missed the feature. For example, after disabling AutoRun, you must manually open the autorun.inf file on any software disc you might want to auto-install. Marlin Brutlag puts it succinctly:
  • “Is there a safe way to remove it [the block on Windows’ AutoRun feature] if no longer desired?”
To restore Windows’ default AutoRun behavior, simply delete the key that was created when you merged the NoAutoRun.reg file. To do this, open the Registry Editor: in Vista, click Start, but in XP, click Start, Run. Then type regedit and press Enter. In the left pane, navigate to the IniFileMapping key in the Registry path shown above. Expand the key, right-click Autorun.inf below it, and choose Delete.

See Microsoft Knowledge Base article 310516 for details on adding, deleting, and modifying Registry keys.

Resuscitate a dead drive by giving it the gas

After reading reader Scotty Burrous’s description of how he brought a hard drive in his mother’s PC back from the dead, I started to think I’d been watching too many scary movies:
  • “My mom’s laptop recently croaked. The two-year-old 60GB hard drive decided it had had enough and the platter quit spinning. I hooked it up to a 2.5-inch USB adapter after removing the cover, negating any and all out-of-date warranties, etc. When energized, the indicator LED — normally green — was red and the platter didn’t move.

    “There were a few files my mom hadn’t backed up — sigh, she’s 86 years old — but decided she desperately needed. With tweezers, I manually rotated the platter on the hub, not touching the disk. I noticed it was difficult to turn, so I figured, ‘What the hell?’

    “I purchased a container of butane — the stuff you refill a cigarette lighter with — and dispensed some of it (frequently) onto the bottom bearing. When energized, the platter spun up and I managed to get all the pertinent data from the drive! And with continued application of the butane, I ended up copying all the data from the (now) ex-drive.”
I’m going to take Scotty’s word that this tip actually worked — but kids, don’t try the butane-on-the-bearing trick without adult supervision! (I can’t help wondering what Scotty tried on the sick drive before he turned to lighter fluid.)

Readers Rob, Marlin, and Scotty will each receive a gift certificate for a book, CD, or DVD of their choice for sending tips we printed. Send us your tips via the Windows Secrets contact page.

The Known Issues column brings you readers’ comments on our recent articles. Dennis O’Reilly is technical editor of WindowsSecrets.com.
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