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Summary

This article describes how to troubleshoot configuration errors in Windows XP by using the System Configuration utility (Msconfig.exe). The System Configuration utility helps you find problems with your Windows XP configuration. It does not manage the programs that run when Windows starts.

For more information about disabling or permanently removing the programs that run when Windows starts, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
270035 How to disable programs that run when you start Windows XP Home Edition or Windows Vista

Advanced troubleshooting

These methods are intended for advanced computer users. If you are not comfortable with advanced troubleshooting, you might want to ask someone for help or contact support. For information about how to contact support, visit the following Microsoft Web site:
http://support.microsoft.com/contactus/
The System Configuration utility automates the routine troubleshooting steps that Microsoft Customer Support Services 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 apply to your configuration. This process reduces the risk of typing errors that you may make when you use any text editor, such as Notepad. You must be logged on as an administrator or as a member of the Administrators group to use the System Configuration utility.

When you use the System Configuration utility, you can easily reset or change the configuration settings in Windows to include preferences for the following files and settings:
  • The System.ini file
  • The Win.ini file
  • The Boot.ini file
  • Programs that are set to load during the startup process (these programs are specified in the Startup folder and in the registry)
  • Environment settings
  • International settings
There are two methods for troubleshooting configuration issues by using the System Configuration utility. Read each method carefully to understand the consequences of each method.

Method 1: Diagnostic and Selection startup modes

Diagnostic startup

Diagnostic startup enables Windows to determine the basic device drivers and software to load when you start Windows. When you use this method, the system temporarily disables Microsoft services such as Networking, Plug and Play, Event Logging, and Error Reporting. Also, you permanently delete all restore points for the System Restore utility.

Note Do not use this method if you want to save your restore points for System Restore or if you must use a Microsoft service to test a problem.

To perform a diagnostic startup, follow these steps:
  1. Click Start, click Run, type msconfig, and then click OK.
  2. On the General tab, click Diagnostic Startup, and then click OK.
  3. Restart your computer.
If the problem does not occur, use Selective startup mode to try to find the problem by turning individual services and startup programs on or off.

Selective startup

Selective startup enables you to select the files and the settings that you want the computer to load when you restart the computer. Select from the following options:
  • Process System.ini File
  • Process Win.ini file
  • Load System Services
  • Load Startup Items
By default, no options are selected. The following actions apply to these options:
  • When you select the check box, the configuration file is processed when you restart the computer.
  • When you clear the check box, the configuration file is not processed when you restart the computer.
  • When the check box is selected, and you cannot select the check box because it appears dimmed, some items are still loading from that configuration file when you restart the computer.
  • When the check box is not selected, and you cannot select the check box because it appears dimmed, the configuration file is not present on the computer.
  • You cannot change the Use Original BOOT.INI option button.
Note When you clear the Load System Services check box, you disable Microsoft services such as Networking, Plug and Play, Event Logging, and Error Reporting. You also permanently delete all restore points for the System Restore utility. Do not clear this check box if you want to keep your restore points for System Restore, or if you have to use a Microsoft service to test a problem.

To perform a selective startup, follow these steps:
  1. Click Start, click Run, type msconfig, and then click OK.
  2. On the General tab, click Selective Startup.
  3. Select or clear the available settings.
  4. Click OK.
  5. Restart your computer.
  6. Repeat steps 1 through 5 until you find the problem.
Change individual file settings
If you know the different settings in each configuration file, you can enable or disable individual settings in the file that has the tab for that file in the System Configuration utility. To prevent individual items in a configuration file from loading when you restart your computer, follow these steps:
  1. Click Start, click Run, type msconfig, and then click OK.
  2. Click a tab: System.ini, Win.ini, Boot.ini, Services, or Startup.
  3. Select or clear the available settings.
  4. Click OK.
  5. Restart your computer.
  6. Repeat steps 1 through 5 until you find the problem.
System.ini and Win.ini options
The SYSTEM.INI and WIN.INI tabs in the System Configuration utility have the following options:
  • Check boxes enable you to enable or to disable an option. To enable an option so that it loads at startup, select the check box or select the option, and then click the Select button. To disable an option so that it does not load at startup, clear the check box or select the option, and then click the Disable button.
  • Move Up and Move Down buttons enable you to move through the different options when you do not have a mouse.
  • The New button enables you to create a new entry in the System.ini or in the Win.ini file. Click the button, and type your entry.
  • The Edit button enables you to edit an existing line in the System.ini or in the Win.ini file. Click the button, and edit the line.
When a check box is unavailable on the SYSTEM.INI and WIN.INI tabs, the System Configuration utility temporarily removed the lines.

Note When you click to clear a check box for an item or a line, the Selective Startup option on the General tab is automatically selected.
Manually extract a file
If you have to fix a corrupted file, extract the individual Windows file from the CAB files. To do this, follow these steps:
  1. Click Start, click Run, type msconfig, and then click OK.
  2. On the General tab, click Expand File.
  3. In the File to restore box, type the name of the file that you want to restore.
  4. In the Restore from box, type the path of the Windows XP .cab file from which you want to restore the file. Or, click Browse From to locate the Windows XP .cab file.

    Note The Windows XP .cab files are stored in the I386 folder on the Windows XP installation CD.
  5. In the Save file in box, type the path of the folder to which you want to extract the new file. Or, click Browse To to locate the folder that you want.
  6. Click Expand.
  7. In the System Configuration Utility dialog box, click OK. If you are prompted to restart the computer, click Restart.
Return to normal startup
After you complete your troubleshooting and fix your configuration, return to a normal startup. Follow these steps:
  1. Click Start, click Run, type msconfig, and then click OK.
  2. On the General tab, click Normal startup.
  3. Click OK.
  4. Restart your computer.

Method 2: System restore

You can use the System Configuration utility to perform a system restore. There are three possible restore points:
  • System checkpoints that Windows schedules
  • Manual restore points that you specify with the System Configuration utility
  • Installation restore points that occur before you install a program or a service
You can use the system checkpoints or the installation restore points to restore your computer's settings to a date when it operated correctly. This may also help determine the cause of the configuration error.

To perform a system restore, follow these steps:
  1. Click Start, click Run, type msconfig, and then click OK.
  2. On the General tab, click Launch System Restore.
  3. Select Restore my computer to an earlier time, and then click Next.
  4. Calendar dates in bold are possible restore points. Click the most recent one to view system restore information.
  5. Select a system checkpoint or an installation restore point, and then click Next.
  6. Close all other programs.
  7. To start the system restore, click Next.
  8. Your computer restarts.
  9. Repeat steps 1 through 8 until you fix your configuration issue.

References

For more information about advanced troubleshooting for general startup problems in Windows XP, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
308041 Advanced troubleshooting for general startup problems in Windows XP
For more information about how to use System Restore to restore Windows XP, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
306084 How to restore the operating system to a previous state in Windows XP
For more information about how to configure Windows XP to start in a "clean boot" state, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
310353 How to configure Windows XP to start in a "clean boot" state
If the articles listed here do not help you resolve the problem or if you experience symptoms that differ from those that are described in this article, search the Microsoft Knowledge Base for more information. To search the Microsoft Knowledge Base, visit the following Microsoft Web site:
http://support.microsoft.com
Then, type the text of the error message that you receive, or type a description of the problem in the Search Support (KB) field.

Properties

Article ID: 310560 - Last Review: May 22, 2013 - Revision: 5.0
Applies to
  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional x64 Edition
  • Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition
  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional
Keywords: 
kbresolve kbhowto kbtshoot kbenv kbinfo KB310560

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