Windows XP has a System Configuration Utility, popularly called MSConfig by its users. You can run this utility by pressing Windows Key + R, typing msconfig and pressing Enter. You can use this utility to troubleshoot Windows XP problems, have a look at the auto-starting programs in Windows etc. It also provides shortcuts to some other basic tools.
The System Configuration Utility has the following seven sections :
General : The General section has three options – Normal startup, Selective startup and Diagnostic startup. You can use these options to diagnose startup problems with faulty drivers and services. If you select normal startup, all drivers and services will load. If you select the diagnostic startup option, then only basic minimum drivers and services are loaded. The third option – selective startup – is for choosing manually what is to load at startup and what to exclude.
The General section also has two buttons. The Launch Restore button is used to launch System Restore. The Expand button is used to expand a cab archived file. It is useful if a system file has become corrupted and you have to expand it directly from the XP CD.
System.ini and Win.ini : These two sections provide an advanced editor for the files system.ini and win.ini. However, unlike the previous versions of Windows (Windows 9x/Me), Windows XP does not use these files for startup processes that much. If some drivers or files which are trying to load at the startup using these old methods, may cause problems. You can use these sections to modify such entries.
Boot.ini : This section allows you to edit and modify the boot.ini file. This file is responsible to display the boot menu at the computer startup. It also controls how Windows is loaded. However if you are dual booting Windows XP with Windows Vista or Windows 7, then this boot.ini is not used.
This section has many options. You can select /safeboot, if you want to automatically boot into Safe Mode. You have to uncheck it again from inside the Safe Mode to boot again in the normal mode. If you select /noguiboot or /sos, then Windows logo is not displayed when Windows boots, but it shows various messages ( more messages with /sos ) like which processes and drivers are being loaded. The /bootlog forces Windows to create a log file each time Windows boots. This file can be used to check for any errors occurring during the boot process. The /basevideo options makes Windows use a standard VGA driver, preventing it from loading any graphics card drivers. This option can be used to solve problem linked to faulty graphics drivers.
The Timeout is the time in seconds for which the boot menu is displayed. The boot menu is displayed only if you are dual booting with another edition of Windows XP or older versions of Windows. The default value is 30 seconds.
Services : This sections allows you to have a look at what services are being run at the Windows startup. You can enable or disable any service you think is causing problem, restart and see if disabling it made any difference.
Startup : This section allows you to see what programs are being loaded at the Windows startup. You can enable or disable any program for the diagnostic reason only. You should not use MSConfig for enabling or disabling programs permanently, but only for diagnosis.
Tools : This section has many shortcuts to different tools in Windows XP. Select any tool you want and click on the button labeled Launch to start that tool
Many Windows XP users are seen to use the MSConfig tool for disabling and enabling startup programs. But you have to keep in the mind that the MSConfig tool is only for the diagnosis of system problems. It should not be used for disabling and enabling startup programs. There are other programs like Autoruns for doing that.