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How to use MSConfig properly in Windows XP

How to access msconfig ==> Start ==> Run ==> type: msconfig ==> Click 'OK' or hit Enter

This will start something called the Microsoft System Configuration Utility aka msconfig. You will have 6 tabs. General, SYSTEM.INI, WIN.INI, BOOT.INI, Services, and Startup. Each of these tabs has their own purpose.

General Tab

Here you have the choice of what you want loading when your machine boots up. There are three choices:

Normal Startup - This will load all device drivers and services.

Diagnostic Startup - This will load only the basic devices and services (Good for trouble shooting)

Selective Startup - This allows you to choose what you want to be loaded at bootup depending on the configurations you have set. (Note: Selective startup is for advanced users and can be used for troubleshooting)


This is a configuration file that tells the machine what system aspects to load. I highly recommend not touching this tab.

This file is used to initialize Windows system files. Such as, the fonts, keyboard, language and various other settings. It is located in the Windows directory.


Once again this is a configuration file that tells the machine what system aspects to load. I highly recommend not touching this tab.

This file is located in the Windows directory, and is used to load various settings when Windows boots. Such as, communications drivers, wallpaper, screen saver, languages, fonts, etc... These are all loaded when the file is initialized. However, if this file becomes corrupt, Windows may not load or if it does, it will have many errors.


The boot.ini is a file that tells the machine what to boot to when you startup the machine. Usually it doesn't need to be touched unless you install another hard drive and make a dual boot system. Another time you may need to edit it is when you take out a hard drive from a dual boot system, you will still see the option to boot to that hard drive even though it really isn't there. Then you would go to the boot.ini and take out the line for the hard drive that no longer exists. Just be careful when you do, you don't want to remove the wrong line. If you do happen to delete the wrong line, don't panic, all you need to do is restore the boot.ini, follow these directions to restore the boot.ini. (Note: This will work on any Windows OS that contains a boot.ini - if you have the XP CD.)

1. Insert and boot from your WindowsXP CD.

2. At the first R=Repair option, press the R key

3. Press the number that corresponds to the correct location for the installation of Windows you want to repair. Typically this will be #1

4. Type bootcfg /list to show the current entries in the BOOT.INI file

5. Type bootcfg /rebuild to repair it

6. Take out the CD ROM and type exit

A good rule of thumb from what I have seen is usually the boot.ini file lists the OS's in the order they appear when you boot up and have the choice which to boot to. So for example, here is my old boot.ini when I had a dual boot XP system.

[boot loader]



[operating systems]

multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition" /fastdetect

multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(1)partition(2)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition - Old" /fastdetect

When I boot up the machine I would have the choice to go to:

Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition

Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition - Old

So if you look at the boot.ini they are listed in the same order as they are listed in the boot up menu. Therefore, if you removed the Old OS and you wanted to keep that option from showing up during boot up, you could just removed that entry for the old OS install. Another good idea is to label the OS's like I did with something like Old at the end so you know which one is which.

More Boot.ini information can be found here:

Services Tab

I do not recommened using msconfig to disable services. Instead I recommened going into services.msc and disabling the services you don't need that way. How to access services.msc ==> Start ==> Run ==> type: services.msc ==> Click 'OK' or hit Enter

Note: Disable services at your own risk.

Startup Tab

Here is a list of the programs that load on startup. Some are needed, some are not. I don't recommened disabling the ones you aren't sure about. If you aren't sure what it is, either leave it or research the file name and see what it is and see if you actually need it to load at startup. In fact, I actually do not recommend using msconfig to disable startups, what I do recommend is a program called Starter. It goes more in depth for startup programs and is safer for disbaling startups, check it out CodeStuff Starter.

Troubleshooting with MSConfig

Before you start a troubleshooting session, you can use the System Configuration utility to initiate a System Restore operation. To do this, click the General tab, and then click Launch System Restore. You can then create a restore point that you can use to restore your computer to a previous state.

The System Configuration utility automates the routine troubleshooting steps that Microsoft Product Support Services Support Professionals use when they diagnose system configuration issues. When you use this utility to modify the system configuration, you can select check boxes to eliminate issues that do not pertain to your configuration. This process reduces the risk of typing errors that you may make when you use a text editor such as Microsoft Notepad. You must be logged on as an administrator or as a member of the Administrators group to use the System Configuration utility.

Written by Besttechie and may not be reproduced without the authors permission.

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