System Configuration – aka MSCONFIG

Hello AskPerf Nation! Today we are going to talk about a well-known built-in troubleshooting tool called the System Configuration Utility, aka MSCONFIG. Don’t worry if you’ve never used it before, as we will discuss in detail how to leverage it to help diagnose those ugly issues you sometimes encounter.

In general, the MSCONFIG tool allows you to automate the troubleshooting steps that diagnose system configuration issues. When you use this utility to modify the system configuration, you can select check boxes to eliminate issues that do not apply to your configuration. This process reduces the risk of typing errors that you may make when you use any text editor, such as Notepad. You must be logged on as an administrator or as a member of the Administrators group to use the System Configuration utility.

For this blog post, we are going to focus more on the Vista + System Configuration tool. With that, let’s dive on in.

Windows XP/2003 System Configuration Utility General tab


Windows Vista, Server 2008, Windows 7 System Configuration General tab


On the General tab, you have 3 boot options. These do the following:

Normal startup – Boots your machine normally with all drivers and services. This is the mode you normally want to operate the system in.

Diagnostic startup – Windows will determine the basic drivers and services to load when you start your machine. Some services that are disabled in this option include Networking, Plug and Play, Event Logging, and Error Reporting. This option also prevents startup items from loading: Startup group and the Registry RUN lines.

Selective startup – Gives you the option to either run/not run system services and startup items.

Note in Vista +, you will not see the SYSTEM.INI, WIN.INI, and BOOT.INI tabs in MSCONFIG

Next up, the Boot tab:


Here you have the option of changing boot values. This includes the number of processors you want to use and how much RAM you allow the OS to see. It also gives you the option to set debug parameters to do live debugs on your system. In addition to that, if you have trouble hitting the F8 key at the right time during boot to initiate the “Advanced Boot Options” screen, you can automatically set it to boot into Safe Mode by ticking the “Safe boot” option. Note, you must un-tick this option in Safe Mode to boot back into normal mode.

Now on to my two favorite tabs, Services and Startup:



I spend most of my time in these two tabs. Under the Services tab, the option to “Hide all Microsoft services” reveals all 3rd party (Non-Microsoft) services. From here, you can simply click the “Disable all” button and prevent these from loading. Under the Startup tab, you can select which items you want to disable or keep running. For me, I typically click “Disable all” to prevent all from loading. Once you click Apply, then OK, you will be prompted to either Restart or Exit without restart.

Finally, we come to the last tab, Tools:


A lot of people, including myself, overlook this tab. My guess is that as Administrators, we already know how to launch these tasks. However, for those of us that do not, this tab can be quite handy. On the Tools tab, you have the option of launching the following actions:

About Windows – Display Windows version information

Change UAC Settings – Change User Account Control settings

Action Center – Open the Action Center

Windows Troubleshooting – Troubleshoot problems with your computer

Computer Management – View and configure system settings and components

System Information – View advanced information about hardware and software settings

Event Viewer – View monitoring and troubleshooting messages

Programs – Launch, add or remove programs and Windows components

System Properties – View basic information about your computer system settings

Internet Options – View Internet Properties

Internet Protocol Configuration – View and configure network address settings

Performance Monitor – Monitor the performance of local or remote computers

Resource Monitor – Monitor the performance and resource usage of the local computer.

Task Manager – View details about programs and processes running on your computer

Command Prompt – Open a command prompt window

Registry Editor – Make changes to the Windows registry

Remote Assistance – Receive help from (or offer help to) a friend over the Internet

System Restore – Restore your computer system to an earlier state

With that, we have come to an end to this blog post. I highly encourage you to add the System Configuration tool to your basic troubleshooting steps for any future issues you are encountering. Until next time, peace out!