System Configuration is a tool that can help identify problems that might prevent Windows from starting correctly. You can start Windows with common services and startup programs turned off and then turn them back on, one at a time. If a problem doesn't occur when a service is turned off, but does occur when that service is turned on, then the service could be the cause of the problem.

System Configuration is intended to find and isolate problems, but it's not meant as a startup management program. To permanently remove or turn off programs or services that run at startup, see Uninstall or change a program.

The following table describes the tabs and options that are available in System Configuration:

Tab Description
Tab

General

Description

Lists choices for startup configuration modes:

  • Normal startup. Starts Windows in the usual manner. Use this mode to start Windows after you're done using the other two modes to troubleshoot the problem.

  • Diagnostic startup. Starts Windows with basic services and drivers only. This mode can help rule out basic Windows files as the problem.

  • Selective startup. Starts Windows with basic services and drivers and the other services and startup programs that you select.

Tab

Boot

Description

Shows configuration options for the operating system and advanced debugging settings, including:

  • Safe boot: Minimal. On startup, opens the Windows graphical user interface (Windows Explorer) in safe mode running only critical system services. Networking is disabled.

  • Safe boot: Alternate shell. On startup, opens the Windows command prompt in safe mode running only critical system services. Networking and the graphical user interface are disabled.

  • Safe boot: Active Directory repair. On startup, opens the Windows graphical user interface in safe mode running critical system services and Active Directory.

  • Safe boot: Network. On startup, opens the Windows graphical user interface in safe mode running only critical system services. Networking is enabled.

  • No GUI boot. Does not display the Windows Welcome screen when starting.

  • Boot log. Stores all information from the startup process in the file %SystemRoot%Ntbtlog.txt.

  • Base video. On startup, opens the Windows graphical user interface in minimal VGA mode. This loads standard VGA drivers instead of display drivers specific to the video hardware on the computer.

  • OS boot information. Shows driver names as drivers are being loaded during the startup process.

  • Make all boot settings permanent. Doesn't track changes made in System Configuration. Options can be changed later using System Configuration, but must be changed manually. When this option is selected, you can't roll back your changes by selecting Normal startup on the General tab.

Advanced boot options:

  • Number of processors. Limits the number of processors used on a multiprocessor system. If the check box is selected, the system boots using only the number of processors in the drop-down list.

  • Maximum memory. Specifies the maximum amount of physical memory used by the operating system to simulate a low memory configuration. The value in the text box is megabytes (MB).

  • PCI Lock. Prevents Windows from reallocating I/O and IRQ resources on the PCI bus. The I/O and memory resources set by the BIOS are preserved.

  • Debug. Enables kernel-mode debugging for device driver development. Go to the Windows Driver Kit website for more information.

  • Global debug settings. Specifies the debugger connection settings on this computer for a kernel debugger to communicate with a debugger host. The debugger connection between the host and target computers can be Serial, IEEE 1394, or USB 2.0.

  • Debug port. Specifies using Serial as the connection type and the serial port. The default port is COM 1.

  • Baud rate. Specifies the baud rate to use when Debug port is selected and the debug connection type is Serial. This setting is optional. Valid values for baud are 9600, 19,200, 38,400, 57,600, and 115,200. The default baud rate is 115,200 bps.

  • Channel. Specifies using 1394 as the debug connection type and specifies the channel number to use. The value for channel must be a decimal integer between 0 and 62, inclusive, and must match the channel number used by the host computer. The channel specified does not depend on the physical 1394 port chosen on the adapter. The default value for channel is 0.

  • USB target name. Specifies a string value to use when the debug type is USB. This string can be any value.

Tab

Services

Description

Lists all of the services that start when the computer starts, along with their current status (Running or Stopped). Use the Services tab to enable or disable individual services at startup to troubleshoot which services might be contributing to startup problems.

Select Hide all Microsoft services to show only third-party applications in the services list. Clear the check box for a service to disable it the next time you start the computer. If you've chosen Selective startup on the General tab, you must either choose Normal startup on the General tab or select the service’s check box to start it again at startup.

Warning  Disabling services that normally run at startup might cause some programs to malfunction or result in system instability. Don't disable services in this list unless you know they're not essential to your computer’s operation. Selecting Disable all won't disable some secure Microsoft services required for the operating system to start.

Tab

Startup

Description

Lists applications that run when the computer starts up, along with the name of their publisher, the path to the executable file, and the location of the registry key or shortcut that causes the application to run.

Clear the check box for a startup item to disable it on your next startup. If you've chosen Selective startup on the General tab, you must either choose Normal startup on the General tab or select the startup item’s check box to start it again at startup.

If you suspect an application has been compromised, examine the Command column to review the path to the executable file.

Note  Disabling applications that normally run at startup might result in related applications starting more slowly or not running as expected.

Tab

Tools

Description

Provides a convenient list of diagnostic tools and other advanced tools that you can run.

Show all

To start Windows in Diagnostic startup mode

  1. Open System Configuration by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Security, clicking Administrative Tools, and then double-clicking System Configuration. Administrator permission required If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

  2. Click the General tab, click Diagnostic startup, click OK, and then click Restart.

    If the problem occurs, then basic Windows files or drivers might be corrupted. For more information, search Windows Help and Support for "Startup Repair."

    If the problem does not occur, then use Selective startup mode to try to find the problem by turning individual services and startup programs on or off.

To start Windows in Selective startup mode

  1. Open System Configuration by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Security, clicking Administrative Tools, and then double-clicking System Configuration. Administrator permission required If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

  2. Click the General tab, click Selective startup, and then clear the Load system services and Load startup items check boxes.

  3. Select the Load system services check box, click OK, and then click Restart.

  4. If the problem occurs after restarting, do one or both (if necessary) of the following tasks:

    Identify the system service that's causing the problem

    1. Click the Services tab, click Disable all, select the check box for the first service that's listed, and then restart the computer. If the problem doesn't occur, then you can eliminate the first service as the cause of the problem.

    2. With the first service selected, select the second service check box, and then restart the computer.

    3. Repeat this process until you reproduce the problem. If you can't reproduce the problem, then you can eliminate system services as the cause of the problem. Perform the following task:

    Identify the startup item that's causing the problem

    1. Click the General tab, and then select the Load startup items check box.

    2. Click the Startup tab, click Disable all, select the check box for the first startup item that's listed, and then restart the computer. If the problem doesn't occur, then you can eliminate the first startup item as the cause of the problem.

    3. With the first startup item selected, select the second startup item check box, and then restart the computer. Repeat this process until you reproduce the problem.

For more in-depth information, go to the Microsoft website for IT professionals.