The effectiveness of different types of auditory prepulses in eliciting skin conductance orienting and in producing prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the acoustic startle eyeblink was studied in two experiments. A discrete white noise prepulse produced greater PPI than either a continuous white noise, a discrete tone, or a continuous tone. The discrete white noise advantage was not due to similarity in bandwidth to the startle pulse or to a refractory effect of the prepulse. Moreover, a dissociation between PPI and skin conductance orienting was seen in both experiments. PPI using auditory prepulses appears to be dependent primarily on the acoustic characteristics of the transient portion of the prepulse, whereas skin conductance orienting is more dependent on the sustained portions of the stimulus.