Thursday, September 4, 2008

Customize Multiboot Startup Options

Edit or create a startup menu that lets you choose which operating system to boot into in multiboot systems, or create a menu that lets you choose different startup options for your single operating system if you have only XP installed.

If you've installed another operating system (in addition to XP) on your system, your PC starts up with a multiboot menu, which allows you to choose which operating system you want to run. The menu stays live for 30 seconds, and a screen countdown tells you how long you have to make a choice from the menu. After the 30 seconds elapse, it boots into your default operating system, which is generally the last operating system you installed.

You can customize that multiboot menu and how your PC starts by editing the boot.ini file, a hidden system file, to control a variety of startup options, including how long to display the menu, which operating system should be the default, whether to use the XP splash screen when XP starts, and similar features. And as you'll see later in this hack, you can also use the file to create a startup menu that will allow you to choose from different versions of your operating system—for example, one that you'll use for tracking down startup problems, and another for starting in Safe Mode.

The boot.ini file is a plain text file found in your root C:\ folder. You might not be able to see it, because it's a system file, and if you can see it, you might not be able to edit it, because it's a read-only file. To make it visible, launch Windows Explorer, choose View Tools Folder Options View and select the radio button "Show Hidden Files and Folders." To make it a file you can edit, right-click on it in Windows Explorer, choose Properties, uncheck the Read-Only box, and click OK.

1.2.1 Editing Files

To edit the file, open it with a text editor such as Notepad. Following is a typical boot.ini file for a PC that has two operating systems installed on it—Windows XP Home Edition and Windows Me:

[boot loader]
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home
Edition" /fastdetect
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINNT="Windows 2000 Professional" /

As you can see, there are two sections in the file: [boot loader] and [operating systems]. To customize your menu and startup options, edit the entries in each section. Before editing boot.ini, make a copy of it and save it under a different name (such as boot.ini.old), so that you can revert to it if you cause problems when you edit the file.

Following are details about how to edit the entries in each section:

[boot loader]

This section controls how the boot process works; it specifies the default operating system and how long a user has to make a selection from a boot menu, if a boot menu has been enabled. The timeout value specifies, in seconds, how long to display the menu and wait for a selection before loading the default operating system. If you want a delay of 15 seconds, for example, enter 15 for the value. Use a value of 0 if you want the default operating system to boot immediately. If you want the menu to be displayed indefinitely and stay onscreen until a selection is made, use a value of -1. The default value specifies which entry in the [operating system] section is the default operating system. (The default value is used even if there is only one operating system in the [operating system] section.) To change the default operating system, edit the setting, in our example, to default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINNT.

So, in our example, if you change the menu settings so that the screen appears for 10 seconds before loading the default operating system, and the default operating system is Windows 2000 Professional, the section reads:

[boot loader]
[operating system]

This section specifies which operating systems are present on the computer, and detailed options for each one. XP uses the Advanced RISC Computing (ARC) path to specify the location of the boot partition. In our example, the ARC path is:


The first parameter, which identifies the disk controller, should be 0. The second parameter, the disk parameter, should also be 0. The rdisk parameter specifies the disk number on the controller that has the boot partition. The numbers start at 0. So, if you have three hard disks installed and the second hard disk has the boot partition, the setting is rdisk(1). The partition parameter identifies the partition number of the boot partition. Partitions start with the number 1. The final section, which in our example is \WINDOWS, specifies the path to the folder where the operating system is installed.

To the right of the ARC path in the example is ="Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition" /fastdetect. The words within quotes are what will appear on the boot menu next to the entry. To customize the text on the menu you can change these words to whatever you wish—for example, "My Favorite Operating System." The /fastdetect switch disables the detection of serial and parallel devices, which allows for faster booting. The detection of these devices isn't normally required in XP, because the functions are performed by plug-and-play drivers, so as a general rule it's a good idea to use the /fastdetect switch. The /fastdetect switch is only one of many switches that can be used in the boot.ini file to customize how the operating system loads. Table 1-1 lists others you can use.

Table 1-1. Switches for boot.ini


What it does


Starts XP using the standard VGA driver. It's most useful if you can't boot normally because of a video driver problem.


Logs information about the boot process to the ntbtlogl.txt file in the C:\Windows folder.


Loads the debugger at boot, but the debugger remains inactive unless a crash occurs.


Loads the debugger at boot and runs it.


Disables the detection of serial and parallel devices.


Specifies the maximum amount of RAM that XP can use.


Does not allow the XP splash screen to load during boot.


Stops the debugger from loading.


Forces XP to boot into the safe mode specified by the switch parameter, which can be minimal, network, or minimal(alternate shell). In minimal safe mode, only the minimum set of drivers necessary to start XP are loaded. In network safe mode, networking drivers are loaded in addition to the minimum set of drivers. In minimal(alternate shell) the minimum set of drivers are loaded and XP boots into the command prompt.


Displays the name of each driver as it loads and gives descriptions of what is occurring during the boot process. It also offers other information, including the XP build number, the service pack number, the number of processors on the system, and the amount of installed memory.

When you've finished editing the boot.ini file, save it. The next time you start your computer, its settings will go into effect.

In our example, if we want the menu to appear for 45 seconds, the default operating system to be Windows 2000, and the XP splash screen to be turned off when we choose to load XP, the boot.ini file should look like this:

[boot loader]
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home
Edition" /fastdetect /noguiboot
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINNT="Windows 2000 Professional" /

1.2.2 Create a Startup Menu Even if You Have Only One Operating System

Even if you have only one operating system, you can create a boot menu that will let you choose to load your operating system with different parameters. For example, for menu choices, you might have your normal operating system; a mode that lets you trace any startup problems; and Safe Mode. To give yourself the option of operating systems with different parameters, create separate entries for each new operating system choice. For example, for the version of the operating system that traces potential startup problems, you could create this entry:

multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Trace Problems XP Home Edition"
/fastdetect /bootlog /sos

This entry creates a startup log and also displays information about the drivers and other operating system information as it loads.

For the version of the operating system that loads in Safe Mode but that still allows networking, you could create this entry:

multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Safe Start XP Home Edition" /
fastdetect /safeboot:network

The boot.ini file would look like this, assuming that you want the menu to display for 30 seconds and you want normal XP startup to be the default:

[boot loader]
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home
Edition" /fastdetect
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Trace Problems XP Home Edition"
/fastdetect /bootlog /sos
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Safe Start XP Home Edition" /
fastdetect /safeboot:network

If you're leery of using a text editor to edit boot.ini directly, you can use the System Configuration Utility [Hack #4] instead. Type msconfig at a command prompt or the Run box and click on the BOOT.INI tab, shown in Figure 1-1. You'll be able to add several switches (but not as many as you can if you edit the boot.ini file yourself using a text editor).

Figure 1-1. The System Configuration Utility

Thursday, May 15, 2008

How to Hibernate in Windows XP

Microsoft chose to hide the "Hibernate" function in Windows XP. Here's how you perform that function without going through too much trouble.

Step1 Make sure all necessary programs are closed prior to shutting down. Hibernating will put all programs to "sleep," but some programs won't start up properly. Experiment after this to figure out which programs perform as intended.

Step2 Click on "Start" and navigate to "Shut Down."

Step3 You will see the Shut Down dialog box.

Step4 You will see three options--Standby, Turn Off or Restart.

Step5 Hold down the "Shift" key on your keyboard and "Standby" will switch to "Hibernate."

Step6 Click on "Hibernate" and your system will then go into Hibernation mode. It will take a few seconds to a few minutes to enter that mode, in which case your system will shut down.

How to Automate Windows XP

Task Scheduler.
This service launches programs on a regular schedule or upon certain events, such as logging on to your computer.
Batch programs.
These programs, a throwback to the earliest days of MS-DOS, still provide an easy, reliable way to run a sequence of programs and commands. Most programs can be started from a command prompt, which means they can be started from a batch program.
Windows Script Host.
This feature allows you to run scripts written in VBScript, JScript, and other languages. cool huh! Although learning how to use Windows Script Host is more difficult than learning how to create batch programs, scripts can interact with the operating system and with other programs in much more powerful ways.

How to Change Your Windows XP Theme

If you're bored of your current Windows theme, Read on to find instructions on how you can change them easily.

Step1 Navigate to the Control Panel.

Step2 Double-click on "Display."

Step3 You will see the "Themes" tab by default. Make your selection according to your favorite.

Step4 The preview will display in the window. If you are satisfied with what appears there, click on 'OK' and Exit. Your Windows system will now display the new theme

Create a New User Account in Windows XP

If you wish to share your computer with family, you should set up user accounts so that they are responsible for their own actions. That way, they won't accidentally delete your files or any of your work. Here's how you set up additional user accounts in Windows XP.
Step1 Click on "Start" and then on "Control Panel."
Step2 Scroll down to "User Accounts" and double-click on it.
Step3 Click on "Create a new account." Give it a new name.
Step4 Next, give it either Administrator or Limited rights.
Step5 And then Finish. If you click on the account, you will be given the option to set a password for the account. Do so if you wish for the user to retain their privacy.

How to End Tasks in Windows XP

If your computer is starting to slow down, you might have to end some tasks or close some programs in Windows. Here's how you do so.

Right-click on an empty space on the task bar.
Choose "Task Manager."
Highlight the task that you wish to end.
Right-click on it and choose "End Task."
The program should be terminated, freeing up some RAM for your computer to work with.

How to Display Hidden System Files in Windows XP

By default, Windows will choose to hide important files, making them not easily accessible by the regular user. However, there will come a time when you need to access these files and folders. Follow these simple steps to display hidden system files and folders

Step1 Open up "My Computer" or Windows Explorer.
Step2 Click on "Tools" and go to Folder Options.
Step3 Click on the "View" tab.
Step4 Scroll down to the "Hidden Files and Folders" and check the option "Show Hidden Files and Folders."
Step 5Click OK and exit. Now all your hidden files will be displayed.