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BOOT.INI file demystified by configuration tool

The BOOT.INI file, which contains the basic startup information for a given installation of Windows, is not self-documenting. Now a company called Open Systems Resources has created a free utility that helps admins work with this sometimes confounding file.

The BOOT.INI file contains the basic startup information for a given installation of Windows: where the operating system itself is, which startup options to apply and which (if any) debugging parameters to use. The bad news is that BOOT.INI is not self-documenting—an administrator has to know what the options are and how to apply them for them to be of any use. That, and the glut of options that can be applied to a particular Windows configuration in BOOT.INI, can confound some systems admins.

However, the company Open Systems Resources (OSR) has done something about this problem by creating a utility called OsrBIC: The BOOT.INI Configuration Utility. The utility requires no installation, runs anywhere and gives admins a GUI through which they can make changes to the BOOT.INI file without having to edit it manually via Notepad or some other text editor.

With this tool, an admin can:

  • choose which BOOT.INI entry to modify (if there's more than one);
  • create new entries from scratch;
  • change their names; and
  • select which switch options to apply to each entry.

The tool makes available all the commonly documented and most commonly used BOOT.INI switches, such as /FastDetect and /3GB. There's an additional text box for switches that are not directly handled through the GUI. For instance, the NoExecute switch isn't handled directly through the GUI but can be edited through that additional box. The utility also includes options for choosing which HAL or kernel to load with a given BOOT.INI entry, as well as any debugging options to apply.

Admins can also use this program to create an alternate version of the boot option they normally use, which has debugging and logging information turned on. Also, if an admin were trying to boot the system with a different hardware profile (such as a different driver) and want maximum feedback about what is happening, they could create a new boot entry with options like /BootLog and /SOS for that.

Another bonus: OSRBic's Help file has a rundown of what all of these switches do and what circumstances they're usually applied in.

Note: The program is free, but the source code is not available. However, the programmers are always interested in feedback.

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the  Windows Power Users Newsletter, which is devoted to hints, tips, tricks, news and goodies for Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP users and administrators. He has more than 10 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.

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