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How the MSCONFIG utility has changed in Windows Vista

The MSCONFIG utility still exists in Windows Vista, but it's slightly different from the XP version. This tip describes the differences in MSCONFIG and how they might affect your use of it.

One of the tools users have been fondest of in Windows—and one of the tools included in Windows by default—is the MSCONFIG utility. Run MSCONFIG from a command line or the Start | Run box and you can quickly set a number of system-startup parameters that normally require a bit of digging or punching F8 at startup, such as booting into Safe Mode or disabling startup programs or services from loading.

MSCONFIG still exists in Windows Vista (in fact, it remains tremendously useful in Vista), but it's slightly different from the Windows XP version of MSCONFIG. This article will describe the major differences between the two versions and how they might affect your use of MSCONFIG.

The General tab

In XP, the General tab offers three radio-button choices: Normal Startup (the default), Diagnostic Startup and Selective Startup. However, the Selective Startup choice in Vista is missing several options.

  • "Process SYSTEM.INI" and "Process WIN.INI" are no longer available, due to those system files being completely deprecated in Vista.
  • "Use original / modified BOOT.INI" has also been removed, since Windows Vista no longer uses BOOT.INI to hold its startup parameters.
  • The "Launch System Restore" and "Expand File" buttons are gone. The former can be launched from the Start menu (just type "Restore" in the Start Menu Search box to find it); the latter was used to expand files from within a .CAB file. Since .CAB files can now be browsed in Explorer as if they were merely subfolders, this function isn't needed anymore.

The SYSTEM.INI, WIN.INI and BOOT.INI tabs have been removed—again, because these system files are no longer required in Windows Vista. The first two were only required for 16-bit program compatibility and the last, as mentioned above, has been superseded by the hidden, binary files used by the Boot Configuration Data (BCD) block. Actually, the BOOT.INI tab is now just the Boot tab, and lets you add new boot entries and edit existing ones (something I'll explore in detail in a future tip).

Services and Startup tabs

The Services and Startup tabs in Windows Vista's MSCONFIG are almost exactly the same as in Windows XP. One new addition: Both tabs contain a "Date Disabled" column, which contains the last date the service or startup item in question was manually disabled. The "Hide all Microsoft services" checkbox (in Services) is still present and still works fine.

Tools tab

This tab is entirely new to MSCONFIG in Windows Vista and contains shortcuts to some commonly needed tools, each with a descriptive label: Intenet Options, Task Manager, Performance Monitor, Event Viewer, and so on.

Two other entries will specifically interest Windows Vista users: Enable UAC and Disable UAC. Both options modify the Registry so that UAC will be either enabled or disabled on the next boot. (If you're worried about some other program trying to hijack MSCONFIG and disable UAC manually, bear in mind that MSCONFIG needs to have a UAC authorization to run in the first place, and any Registry changes cannot take place without a privilege elevation in the first place.)

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor ofWindows Insight (formerly the Windows Power Users Newsletter), a blog site devoted to hints, tips, tricks and news for users and administrators of Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Vista. He has more than 12 years of experience working with Windows, and contributes regularly to and other TechTarget sites.

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