The system configuration utility is a software program that provides information about the configuration of the system. The information that the utility provides includes general information, INI file information (configuration files), running services and startup software.
The utility is useful for diagnosing system issues such as slow startup, conflicts, error messages, rogue drivers or to determine what software and services start automatically when the system startups. This information provided can be useful when troubleshooting system problems as many software programs, and viruses, install programs that start in the background and can cause system instability.
To start the System Configuration Utility:
- Click Start | Run
- Type msconfig
- Click OK
The utility will start and there will be, typically, six tabs for the different areas of the utility. Each section will be discussed below.
The general tab provides checkboxes that enable you to start the system in several different modes that will help troubleshoot. By default Normal Startup is selected which is for when everything in the system is running properly.
The next two options include Diagnostic and Selective Startup which allow you to start the machine with a minimum amount of drivers, services and configuration problems which help narrow down a program or device is not working properly.
SYSTEM.INI, WIN.INI and BOOT.INI
The next three tabs in the utility relate to the INI file for operation of MS Windows. An INI file is a basic text file that contains configuration settings for drivers, boot setup and programs for Windows. Typically, in the newer versions of Windows there is no need to modify these files as most of the settings are stored in the registry. If there is a need to make a change to any of these files make sure you have a backup and use caution as the system may not work properly if the files are edited incorrectly.
The services tab displays all the services that are available on the system and the status of the service. Many of these services are necessary while there may be some that are not needed and are taking memory and resources that can be utilized by another program.
To disable a service uncheck the box next to the service. If you are not sure if a service is necessary or not it is better not to disable with researching the service. A great way to learn about the services on your system is to use google.com and search for the name of the service.
The last tab is the startup tab which lists all the programs that are loaded into memory when the system is started. This section is great for determining what is being loaded, the command that is loading the file and where the file is being loaded from.
It is usually in the section that you can determine if there is any rogue or unneeded software being loaded into memory. To test if a file is causing problems it can be unchecked in this screen and when the system is rebooted the file will not load. If you still have the problem then it was not that file so it can enabled again. (Some files are needed if not sure then keep loaded and use google.com to research the file).
If you are having problems with you computer it is possible to fix the issue with the utilities included in Windows. All it takes is a little knowledge, some research and a lot of detective work!