Configuring Hardware Profiles on Windows XP

One of the neater features available in Windows XP is the ability to different hardware profiles. By default, a Windows XP system is configured with a single, default hardware profile. This is the hardware profile used to boot XP, and loads drivers for all installed hardware, meaning that all devices are enabled by default. While this sounds desirable, there will be times when you don’t want (or need) all of your hardware to be functioning. We know it sounds crazy, so let’s take a closer look with an example.

Imagine that you’re booting your system to watch a DVD. On a very high-end system with lots of memory and superior hardware, watching a DVD probably won’t be an issue, and smooth playback will likely occur without issue. However, some systems aren’t quite so powerful, and you may experience choppiness in your playback as a result of resources being consumed by loaded drivers, applications, and services. Because you want the smoothest playback possible, you could create an alternate hardware profile called “DVD”, boot into this profile, and then configure your system such that all unnecessary hardware and services are disabled, using Device Manager and the Services MMC respectively. Then, every time you boot into this hardware profile, unnecessary drivers and services will not be loaded or started, saving you the time and effort associated with disabling hardware or stopping services manually as methods of improving performance. Furthermore, if you need to get back to your original configuration, all you need to do is reboot into the original default profile.

Many users create multiple profiles on their systems for purposes ranging from gaming to programming, and how you use your system will dictate how many hardware profiles you will create. To create new hardware profiles, open the System applet to the Hardware tab, and then click the Hardware Profiles button. This will open the Hardware Profiles window, as shown below. To create a new profile, select Profile 1 and then click Copy. Give the new profile a descriptive name, and click OK. The new profile will appear on the list of available hardware profiles. Once you reboot your system, you will now be presented with a list of available profiles, from which you can select the hardware profile to load. Once the boot process is complete, make changes to your hardware or service settings based on the specific function the profile is designed for and you’ll be good to go. If you own a system with less resources (especially RAM) than you’d like, hardware profiles are one of the best ways to squeeze better performance out of your system.

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.