Modifying the Startup Folder
Think of the Startup folder as a means for automatically configuring your desktop. Windows looks in this file during the boot process and launches anything it finds there, including everything from starting applications to opening files and folders.
Peter's Principle: Getting a Great Start in the Morning
Many people are under the impression that the Startup folder is only for loading applications. Other people feel that you should place only certain classes of applications there, such as screen savers or Microsoft Office Startup. Although putting a background application in the Startup folder is a good idea, using the Startup folder for this purpose alone doesn't make full use of the resource.
Placing a shortcut to the Startup folder on your desktop is a great idea because you can put things in there that you'll need the next morning. (Microsoft buried this folder so far in the directory tree that you'll quickly tire of trying to use it if you don't take this step.) For example, if I'm working on a proposal over the course of a few days, I'll stick a shortcut to the master file in Startup. That way, it will automatically open when I start my machine the next day.
Adding objects to the Startup folder can really boost your productivity. Instead of spending the first 15 minutes of the morning getting set up, you can start your machine, go get a cup of coffee, and be ready to work when you return. Making Windows XP more efficient is largely up to the user now. Most of the tools are there; all you need to do is use them.
Like everything else in Windows XP, you'll find the Startup folder in Explorer. Unfortunately, Microsoft buried it deep in the directory tree. If you look in the \Documents and Settings\<User Name>\Start Menu\Programs folder, you'll see the Startup folder. A faster way to access the folder is to right-click Start and select Explore from the context menu. This starts Explorer at the Start Menu folder for your configuration.