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Chapter 4. Windows XP Applications and Tools > System Configuration Utility

System Configuration Utility \windows\pchealth\helpctr\binaries\msconfig.exe

Selectively enable or disable several startup options for diagnostic/troubleshooting purposes.

To Open

Command Prompt msconfig


The System Configuration Utility allows you to selectively enable or disable various settings that affect system startup (see Figure 4-96). For the most part, this tool was designed for an earlier version of Windows and therefore isn’t too useful in Windows XP. However, it does provide a few options not available elsewhere:

Figure 4-96. The System Configuration Utility lets you stop certain programs from loading automatically when Windows starts

General tab Expand File

Provides a graphical interface to the File Expansion Utility (expand.exe), discussed earlier in this chapter.

WIN.INI tabs

These two tabs let you turn on or off any settings in either the system.ini or win.ini files, respectively. Note that these files aren’t actually used by Windows XP and are only kept around to support old Windows applications.


Displays the contents of the boot.ini file, used to display the startup menu in a multiple-boot environment, as well as several options that affect the boot menu. For example, if there is more than one operating system installed on your computer, you can use the Set as Default button to choose the default OS and the Move Up button to rearrange the menu items. Some of these options here are also available by going to Control Panel [Performance and Maintenance] System Advanced tab, and clicking Settings in the Startup and Recovery section. However, the System Configuration Utility has several boot options not otherwise available without having to manually edit the boot.ini file.

Click Check All Boot Paths to scan all of the entries in boot.ini and remove any menu items that point to invalid partitions or operating systems. This is very useful if, for example, you’ve installed two operating systems, and then deleted one of them, yet still are bothered by the boot menu every time you turn on your computer.

For more information on boot.ini, see Help or take a look at the “Boot Configuration Manager”, earlier in this chapter, for details.

Services tab

Displays system services. The preferred interface for viewing and controlling services is the Services Snap-in (services.msc) of the Microsoft Management Console, discussed earlier in this chapter.

Startup tab

This tab shows some of the programs that are configured to run automatically when Windows starts. Although most startup programs are configured by placing Windows Shortcuts in the Startup folder in the Start menu, the Start tab shows only those seemingly hidden entries specified in the Registry (see Chapter 8) at HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run.

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