Windows XP Tips: Customize Multiboot Startup Options

Edit or create a startup menu that lets you choose which operating system to boot into in multiboot systems, or create a menu that lets you choose different startup options for your single operating system if you have only XP installed. If you've installed another operating system (in addition to XP) on your system, your 
PC starts up with a multiboot menu, which allows you to choose the operating system you want to run. The menu stays live for 30 seconds, and a screen countdown tells you how long you have to make a choice from the menu. After the 30 seconds elapse, it  boots  into  your  default  operating  system,  which is  generally 
the  last  operating system you installed. 

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You  can  customize  that  multiboot  menu  and  how  your PC  starts  by  editing  the boot.ini file, a hidden system file, to control a variety of startup options, including how long to display the menu, which operating system should be the default, whether to use the XP splash screen when XP starts, and similar features. And 
as you'll see later in this hack, you can also use the file to create a startup menu that will allow you to choose from different versions of your operating systemfor example, one that you'll use for tracking down startup problems, and another for starting in Safe Mode. 

The boot.ini file is a plain-text file found in your root C:\ folder. You might not be able to see it because it's a system file, and if you can see it, you might not be able to edit it because it's a read-only file. To make it visible, launch Windows Explorer, choose View Tools Folder Options View. Select the Show Hidden Files and Folders  radio  button.  To  make  it  a  file  you  can  edit,  right-click  it  in  Windows Explorer, choose Properties, uncheck the Read-Only box, and click. 

To edit the file, open it with a text editor such as Notepad. Following is a typical boot.ini file for a PC that has two operating systems installed on itWindows XP Home Edition and Windows 2000 Professional: 

[boot loader] timeout=30 default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS [operating systems] 
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition" /fastdetect 
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINNT="Windows 2000 Professional" /fastdetect 

As you can see, there are two sections in the file: [bootloader] and [operating systems].  To  customize  your  menu  and  startup  options,edit  the  entries  in  each section. Before editing boot.ini, make a copy of it and save it under a different name (such as boot.ini.old) so that you can revert to it if you cause problems when you edit the file. 

Following are details about how to edit the entries in each section: [boot loader]  This  section  controls  how  the  boot  process  works;  it  specifies  the  default operating system and how long a user has to make a selection from a boot menu,  if  a  boot  menu  has  been  enabled.

The timeout  value  specifies,  in seconds, how long to display the menu and wait for a selection before 
loading the default operating system. If you want a delay of 15 seconds, for example, enter 15 for the value. Use a value of 0 if you want the default operating system to boot immediately. If you want the menu to be displayed indefinitely and stay on-screen until a selection is made, use a value of -1.

 The default value specifies which entry in the [operating system] section is the default operating  system.  (The default  value  is  used  even  if  there  is  only  one operating system in the [operating system] section.) 

To change the default operating  system,  edit  the  setting,  in  our  example,  to default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINNT. So, in our example, if you change the menu settings so that the screen appears for 10 seconds before loading the default operating system, and the default 
operating system is Windows 2000 Professional, the section reads: [boot loader] timeout=10 default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINNT 

[operating system]  
This section specifies which operating systems are present on the computer, and detailed options for each one. XP uses the Advanced RISC Computing (ARC) path to specify the location of the boot partition. In our example, the ARC path is: multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS 

The  first  parameter,  which  identifies  the  disk  controller,  should  be 0. The second parameter, the disk parameter, should also be 0.The rdisk parameter specifies the disk number on the controller that has the boot partition. The numbers start at 0. So, if you have three hard disks installed and the second 
hard  disk  has  the  boot  partition,  the  setting  is rdisk(1).

 The  partition parameter identifies the partition number of the boot partition. Partitions start with  the  number 1.  The  final  section,  which  in  our  example  is  \WINDOWS, specifies the path to the folder where the operating system is installed. 

To the right of the ARC path in the example is ="Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition" /fastdetect. The words within quotes are what will appear on the boot menu next to the entry. To customize the text on the menu you can change these words to whatever you wishfor example, "My Favorite Operating 
System." The /fastdetect switch disables the detection of serial and parallel devices, which allows for faster booting. The detection of these devices isn't normally required in XP because the functions are performed by Plug and Play drivers, so as a general rule it's a good idea to use the /fastdetect switch. 

The /fastdetect switch is only one of many switches that you can use in the boot.ini file to customize how the operating system loads.

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When you've finished editing the boot.ini file, save it. The next time you start your computer, its settings will go into effect. In our example, if we want the menu to appear for 45 seconds, the default operating 
system to be Windows 2000, and the XP splash screen to be turned off when we 
choose to load XP, the boot.ini file should look like this: 

[boot loader] 


[operating systems] 
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP 


Edition" /fastdetect /noguiboot multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINNT="Windows 2000 Professional" 

"Windows XP Tips: Customize Multiboot Startup Options"

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