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Configuring Startup and Troubleshooting Startup Issues : Important Startup Files

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For Windows Vista to start, the system and boot partitions must contain the files listed in Table 1.

Table 1. Windows Vista Startup Files
FilenameDisk locationDescription
BootMgrRoot of the system partitionThe Windows Boot Manager.
WinLoadsystemroot\System32The Windows Boot Loader.
BCD\BootA file that specifies the paths to operating system installations and other information required for Windows to start.
Ntoskrnl.exesystemroot\System32The core (also called the kernel) of the Windows Vista operating system. Code that runs as part of the kernel does so in privileged processor mode and has direct access to system data and hardware.
Hal.dllsystemroot\System32The HAL dynamic-link library file. The HAL abstracts low-level hardware details from the operating system and provides a common programming interface to devices of the same type (such as video adapters).
Smss.exesystemroot\System32The Session Manager file. Session Manager is a user-mode process created by the kernel during startup that handles critical startup tasks including creating page files and performing delayed file rename and delete operations.
Csrss.exesystemroot\System32The Win32 Subsystem file. The Win32 Subsystem is launched by Session Manager, and is required by Windows Vista to function.
Winlogon.exesystemroot\System32The Logon Process file, which handles user logon requests and intercepts the Ctrl+Alt+Delete logon key sequence. The Logon Process is launched by Session Manager. This is a required component.
Services.exesystemroot\System32The Service Control Manager is responsible for starting and stopping services, and is a required component of Windows Vista.
Lsass.exesystemroot\System32Local Security Authentication Server process is called by the Logon Process when authenticating users, and is a required component.
System registry filesystemroot\System32\Config\SystemThe file that contains data used to create the registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM. This key contains information that the operating system requires to start devices and system services.
Device driverssystemroot\System32\DriversDriver files in this folder are for hardware devices, such as keyboard, mouse, and video.

In Table 1, the term systemroot is one of many environment variables used to associate string values, such as folder or file paths, to variables that Windows Vista applications and services use. For example, by using environment variables, scripts can run without modification on computers that have different configurations. To obtain a list of environment variables that you can use for troubleshooting, type set at the Windows command prompt.

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