Troubleshooting Windows XP with MSCONFIG

While more than just a potential diagnostic utility, the System Configuration Utility (msconfig.exe) included in both Windows 9x/ME and XP systems provides a wonderfully flexible way to test and troubleshoot system errors and issues. As a troubleshooting utility, this tool allows you to configure your system to boot using a variety of different configurations. For example, if your system is generating errors after you log on, there is a chance that certain startup settings are not correct, or that individual drivers are failing to load. To diagnose these problems, you can choose to boot your system using either the Diagnostic or Selective startup options from the General tab. Diagnostic mode allows you to interactively load drivers and software during the startup process, and also note any that might fail. A selective startup allows you to choose which common configuration files (like System.ini or Win.ini) will be processed. This allows you to troubleshoot by the process of elimination if necessary.

Going a step further, the System Configuration Utility also allows you to control individual elements of files like System.ini and Win.ini, selectively controlling the elements to be loaded. One last feature that appeals to all users is the program’s Startup tab – from here, you can control exactly which of those sometimes-pesky startup applications are loaded at boot time.

Author: Dan DiNicolo

Dan DiNicolo is a freelance author, consultant, trainer, and the managing editor of He is the author of the CCNA Study Guide found on this site, as well as many books including the PC Magazine titles Windows XP Security Solutions and Windows Vista Security Solutions. Click here to contact Dan.