Master the New and Improved MSConfig in Vista

The System Configuration Utility – MSConfig – is a favorite of most pc users for a number of reasons. You can disable startup items and services, change boot options, and launch troubleshooting and configuration tools.

Microsoft didn’t disappoint us with the newest version of MSConfig in Vista. They have made it simpler and more concise, and also added a few new tools.

At First Glance

To launch the System Configuration Utility, click Start and type msconfig. When you first look at the new MSConfig you will notice there are fewer tabs than in XP.

The New and Improved MSConfig in Vista  - 1

The System.ini and Win.ini tabs are missing from the new version and the Boot.ini tab has been renamed to “Boot”. Vista uses a new boot architecture that is more secure than the System.ini, Win.ini, and Boot.ini files that just about any virus can modify fairly easily. System.ini and Win.ini were used for 16-bit programs which are mostly non-existent these days.

The General Tab in MSConfig

Most of the options on the General tab have stayed the same. Normal Startup, Diagnostic Startup, and Selective startup are all still present. There is no Boot.ini in Vista so your options for Selective Startup are slightly different.

Selective startup has changed from the previous version of MSConfig as it no longer has the option to Process System.ini, Process Win.ini, and Use Modified Boot.ini. Your new options are Load System Services, Load Startup Items, and Use Original Boot Configuration.

There are also two buttons missing, the Launch System Restore and Expand File. You can still find System Restore in Vista and can get to it by clicking Start, and type restore. The Expand File option was used to expand .cab files but this is no longer needed with Vista, as this functionality is built in.

Boot, Services, and Startup Tabs

The Boot tab has been very slightly modified from the previous version. You will notice you no longer have the option to Check All Boot Paths. The tab has been renamed to Boot from its original Boot.ini. There is also a new checkbox option to Make all boot settings permanent.

The New and Improved MSConfig in Vista - 2

XP still uses Boot.ini, System.ini, and Win.ini files but Vista no longer needs these. Microsoft has replaced these files with the Windows Boot Manager which reads the Boot Configuration Data (BCD) to boot your computer. The new Windows Boot Manager is a storage system and is independent of firmware.

You can find out more about the new Windows Boot Manager in this Microsoft article.

Advanced options got a slight facelift in the new version of MSConfig while also adding the ability to “Detect HAL”.

The New and Improved MSCofig in Vista - 3

Detect HAL can be used when there are multiple operating systems installed, usually in a dual boot scenario. The Detect HAL option will search for the different versions of the HAL that are on your computer, and then add a prompt in your boot menu so you can pick which operating system to boot. Most of us won’t use this option unless we have multiple operating systems installed.

You can make even more advanced changes to your boot options using the new bcdedit.exe command line utility. Read more about the bcdedit.exe utility here.

Unfortunately there is nothing special to report about the Services and Startup tabs. They are both pretty straight forward and didn’t need much modification.

The MSConfig. Tools Tab

I like what Microsoft did with the Tools tab in the new version of MSConfig. Seven new items have been added to help make the MSConfig utility more useful and give you all of the tools you need at a glance.

The New and Improved MSConfig in Vista - 4

The new additions include:

  1. Remote Assistance
  2. System Restore
  3. Computer Management
  4. Security Center
  5. Performance Monitor
  6. Enable UAC
  7. Disable UAC

Being able to launch System Restore, Command Prompt, or any other utility from MSConfig can be useful in the event you get a virus or Trojan that prevents you from accessing your Start Menu or Desktop. I know I can’t remember all of the executable names to run (from the “Run” box) like “rstrui.exe” for System Restore, so being able to launch these tools from one place can be very handy.

All of the old-school tools like Registry Editor, Command Prompt, and Task Manager are still there too. The only tool that has been removed from the new version of MSConfig is Network Diagnostics which was used to gather information about your computer and your network connections. UAC is the new User Account Control in Windows Vista and can now be disabled from the Tools tab.

You can read about disabling UAC in Dave’s latest article on disabling UAC.

Room for Improvements?

Overall Microsoft did a good job with the new MSConfig utility in my opinion. They have cleaned it up and made it easier to look at while giving it better functionality. It makes me wonder if there is anything else that can be added to make it even better.

Are there any tools or options you would like to see Microsoft add to MSConfig?


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