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Windows XP

Custom Startups with BOOT.INI

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Changing the Default Startup Operating System

To change which operating system is chosen by default at startup, you need to modify the default value in the [boot loader] section. To do that, find the operating system in the [operating systems] section, copy all the text to the left of the equal sign, and then paste it as the new default value. For example, suppose that the [operating systems] section includes the following entry:

C:\="Microsoft Windows"

In that case, you’d copy just the C:\ text and use that as the new default value:

default=C:\

If you always want your system to boot immediately to Windows XP and bypass the BOOT.INI menu, you have two choices:

  • Change the timeout value to 0

  • Delete all other operating systems listed in the [operating systems] section


Using the BOOT.INI Switches

The ARC pathname syntax supports more than 30 different switches that enable you to control various aspects of the Windows XP startup. Here’s a summary of the switches that are most useful:

/3GBConfigures Windows XP to allocate 3GB of virtual memory to User mode processes (programs) and 1GB to Kernel mode (system) processes. (Normally, Windows XP allocates 2GB to each mode.) Use this switch if you have one or more programs that can take advantage of the extra virtual memory. To fine-tune the amount of virtual memory allocated to programs, see the /userva switch.
/basevideoBoots XP using the standard VGA mode: 640×480 with 256 colors. This is useful for troubleshooting video display driver problems. Use this switch if Windows XP fails to start using any of the safe mode options, if you recently installed a new video card device driver and the screen is garbled or the driver is balking at a resolution or color depth setting that’s too high, or if you can’t load the Windows XP GUI. After Windows XP has loaded, you can reinstall or roll back the driver, or you can adjust the display settings to values that the driver can handle.
/bootlogBoots XP and logs the boot process to a text file named NTBTLOG.TXT that resides in the %SystemRoot% folder. Move to the end of the file and you might see a message telling you which device driver failed. You probably need to reinstall or roll back the driver. Use this switch if the Windows XP startup hangs, if you need a detailed record of the startup process, or if you suspect (after using one of the other Startup menu options) that a driver is causing Windows XP startup to fail.

Note

%SystemRoot% refers to the folder into which Windows XP was installed. This is usually either C:\WINNT or C:\WINDOWS.


/burnmemory=MBSpecifies the amount of physical memory that Windows XP cannot use. For example, if you set this value to 256, the memory available to Windows XP is reduced by 256MB. Use this switch to simulate a low-RAM situation if you suspect that RAM depletion is causing problems.
/debugEnables remote debugging of the Windows XP kernel. This sends debugging information to a remote computer via one of your computer’s serial ports. If you use this switch, you can specify the serial port by also using the \debugport=port switch, where port is one of com1, com2, com3, com4, or 1394. If you use a COM port, you can specify the transmission speed of the debugging information by also using the \baudrate=speed switch, where speed is one of the following: 300, 1200, 2400, 4800, 9600, 19200, 38400, 57600, or 115200. If you use an IEEE 1394 (FireWire) connection, you can also add the /channel=numbernumber is a channel value between 1 and 62. switch, where
/fastdetectTells Windows XP to not enumerate the system’s serial and parallel ports during startup. These ports aren’t needed during the boot process, so this reduces the system startup time.
/maxmem=MBSpecifies the maximum amount of memory, in megabytes, that Windows XP can use. Use this value when you suspect a faulty memory chip might be causing problems.
/noexecute=level (Service Pack 2 only)Sets the Data Execution Prevention (DEP) policy level. DEP prevents malicious code from executing in protected memory locations. There are four levels:
 
  • OptIn—Windows system programs are protected by DEP, as well as any applications that have been programmed to take advantage of (opt into) DEP protection.

  • OptOut—Provides DEP protection for the entire system, except for programs that have been specified to not use (opt out of) DEP.

  • AlwaysOn—Provides DEP protection for the entire system.

  • AlwaysOff—Provides no DEP protection for the system.

/noguibootTells Windows XP not to load the VGA display driver that is normally used to display the progress bar during startup. Use this switch if Windows XP hangs while switching video modes for the progress bar, or if the display of the progress bar is garbled.
/numproc=nIn a multiprocessor system, specifies the maximum of processors that Windows XP can use. Use this switch if you suspect that using multiple processors is causing a program to hang.
/pcilockTells Windows XP not to dynamically assign hardware resources for PCI devices during startup. The resources assigned by the BIOS during the POST are locked in place. Use this switch if installing a PCI device causes the system to hang during startup.
/safeboot:minimalBoots Windows XP in safe mode, which uses only a minimal set of device drivers. Use this switch if Windows XP won’t start, if a device or program is causing Windows XP to crash, or if you can’t uninstall a program while Windows XP is running normally.
/safeboot:minimal(alternateshell)Boots Windows XP in safe mode but also bypasses the Windows XP GUI and boots to the command prompt instead. Use this switch if the programs you need to repair a problem can be run from the command prompt or if you can’t load the Windows XP GUI.

Note

The shell loaded by the /safeboot:minimal(alternateshell) switch is determined by the value in the following Registry key:

   HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\SafeBoot\AlternateShell

The default value is CMD.EXE (the command prompt).


/safeboot:networkBoots Windows XP in safe mode but also includes networking drivers. Use this switch if the drivers or programs you need to repair a problem exist on a shared network resource, if you need access to email or other network-based communications for technical support, or if your computer is running a shared Windows XP installation.
/safeboot:dsrepairBoots Windows XP in safe mode and also restores a backup of the Active Directory directory service (this option applies only to domain controllers).
/sosDisplays the path and location of each device driver (using the ARC pathname syntax) as it is loaded, as well as the operating system version and build number and the number of processors.
/userva=MBSpecifies the amount of virtual memory allocated to programs when you also include the /3GB switch. Set the value to a number between 2,048 (2GB) and 3,072 (3GB). The difference between the value you specify and 3GB is allocated to the Kernel mode.

Using the System Configuration Editor to Modify BOOT.INI

Rather than edit the BOOT.INI file directly, you can modify the file indirectly by using the System Configuration Editor. To start this program, select File, Run, type msconfig in the Run dialog box, and then click OK. When the System Configuration Window appears, select the BOOT.INI tab, shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. In the System Configuration Utility, use the BOOT.INI tab to modify the BOOT.INI startup file.


Note

To change any options in the System Configuration Utility, you must be logged on to Windows XP with Administrator-level permissions.


The large box near the top of the tab displays the current BOOT.INI text. You can’t edit this text directly, however. All you can do is highlight one of the items in the [operating systems] section and then click one of the following buttons:

Check All Boot PathsClick this button to check the paths of each operating system to ensure they’re valid.
Set as DefaultClick this button to set the highlighted operating system as the default for the BOOT.INI menu.
Move UpClick this button to move the highlighted operating system higher in the menu.
Move DownClick this button to move the highlighted operating system lower in the menu.

You can also use the Timeout text box to adjust the timeout value of BOOT.INI.

Use the check boxes in the Boot Options group to set the switches used with the currently highlighted operating system (assuming that operating system is Windows XP, 2000, or NT). You can add other switches (such as /maxmem and /debug) by clicking the Advanced Options button, which takes you to the BOOT.INI Advanced Options dialog box shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. In the BOOT.INI tab, click Advanced Options to display the dialog box shown here.


Custom Startups with the Advanced Options Menu

When the BOOT.INI menu appears at startup, you see the following message at the bottom of the screen:

For troubleshooting and advanced startup options for Windows, press F8.

This message remains on the screen while the progress bar that tracks the loading of startup devices is displayed. If you press F8, you get to the Advanced Options menu, which looks like this:

Tip

If your system doesn’t automatically display the OS Choices menu at startup, you can display it manually. After you start your computer, wait until the POST is complete, and then press F8 to display the OS Choices menu. If your computer is set up to “fast boot,” it might not be obvious when the POST ends. In that case, just turn on your computer and press F8 repeatedly until you see the OS Choices menu. Note, however, that if your system picks up two separate F8 presses, you might end up directly in the Advanced Options menu.


Microsoft Advanced Options Menu
Please select an option:

Safe Mode
Safe Mode with Networking
Safe Mode with Command Prompt

Enable Boot Logging
Enable VGA Mode
Last Known Good Configuration (your most recent settings that worked)
Directory Services Restore Mode (Windows domain controllers only)
Debugging Mode
Disable automatic restart on system failure

Boot Normally
Reboot
Return to OS Choices Menu

Use the up and down arrow keys to move the highlight to your choice.

The Boot Normally option loads Windows XP in the usual fashion. You can use the other options to control the rest of the startup procedure:

Safe ModeIf you’re having trouble with Windows XP—for example, if a corrupt or incorrect video driver is mangling your display, or if Windows XP won’t start—you can use the Safe Mode option to run a stripped-down version of Windows XP that includes only the minimal set of device drivers that XP requires to load. You could reinstall or roll back the offending device driver and then load XP normally. When Windows XP finally loads, the desktop reminds you that you’re in safe mode by displaying Safe Mode in each corner. (Also, the Help and Support Center appears with the Safe Mode Troubleshooter loaded.) Choosing the Safe Mode option is the same as using the following BOOT.INI switches:
/safeboot:minimal /bootlog /noguiboot /sos


Note

If you’re curious to know which drivers are loaded during a safe mode boot, see the subkeys in the following Registry key:

   HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SafeBoot\Minimal\


Safe Mode with NetworkingThis option is identical to plain safe mode, except that Windows XP’s networking drivers are also loaded at startup. This enables you to log on to your network, which is handy if you need to access the network to load a device driver, run a troubleshooting utility, or send a tech support request. Choosing this option is the same as using the following BOOT.INI switches:
/safeboot:network /bootlog /noguiboot /sos

Safe Mode with Command PromptThis option is the same as plain safe mode, except that it doesn’t load the Windows XP GUI. Instead, it runs CMD.EXE to load a command prompt session. Choosing this option is the same as using the following BOOT.INI switches:
/safeboot:minimal(alternateshell) /bootlog /noguiboot /sos

Enable Boot LoggingThis option is the same as the Boot Normally option, except that Windows XP logs the boot process in a text file named NTBTLOG.TXT that resides in the system root. Choosing this option is the same as using the following BOOT.INI switch:
/bootlog

Enable VGA ModeThis option loads Windows XP with the video display set to 640×480 and 256 colors. Choosing this option is the same as using the following BOOT.INI switch:
/basevideo

Last Known Good ConfigurationThis option boots Windows XP using the last hardware configuration that produced a successful boot.
Directory Services Restore ModeThis option is the same as using the following BOOT.INI switch:
/safeboot:dsrepair

Debugging ModeThis option is the same as using the following BOOT.INI switch:
/debug

Disable Automatic Restart on System FailureThis option (which is new with Service Pack 2) prevents Windows XP from restarting automatically when the system crashes. Choose this option if you want to prevent your system from restarting so that you can troubleshoot the problem.
Boot NormallyThis options loads Windows XP normally.
RebootThis option reboots the computer.
Return to OS Choices MenuThis option displays the BOOT.INI menu.

Tip

For those advanced options that have equivalent BOOT.INI switches, you can use those switches to place individual advanced options on the OS Choices menu. You do this by adding an item to BOOT.INI’s [operating systems] section that starts Windows XP with the appropriate switches. For example, to add an option to the OS Choices menu to start Windows XP in safe mode, you’d add the following to BOOT.INI’s [operating systems] section:

   multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Safe Mode" /safeboot:minimal /bootlog /noguiboot /sos


Tip

If you modify BOOT.INI using the System Configuration Utility, Windows XP maintains a copy of the original BOOT.INI. If you want to revert to that copy, display the General tab in the System Configuration Utility and activate the Use Original BOOT.INI option. If you need to use the edited version of BOOT.INI again, activate the Use Modified BOOT.INI option instead.


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