Instead of using a simple Boot.ini file as in Windows XP, Vista has a special Boot Configuration Data (BCD) database to hold all
the relevant bootup parameters, and to allow compatibility with new bootup methods. However this change also ma kes boot configuration and editing much more tricky.
Editing the boot configuration is particularly
important if you've installed a dual boot setup of Vista as covered in the previous chapter.
For the most part, you should not need to edit or alter the Vista boot configuration unless you're troubleshooting a system problem, attempting to use more than 4GB of RAM, or you want to alter specific parameters or repair a dual boot or multiboot setup. There are several ways you can view and modify your Vista boot configuration, and each is covered in more detail below.
BCDEdit is a built-in command line tool for altering the boot configuration in Vista. To use it, open an
Administrator Command Prompt (see the Vista Usage Notes chapter). The full list of BCDEdit command line options is in this Microsoft Article. Given it is a more complex tool to use, it is not recommended that you edit the boot configuration this way - I recommend using the tools below at least to start with.
STARTUP AND RECOVERY.
The easiest method to alter your basic bootup options is to go to Control anel>System>Advanced System Settings, or go to Start>Search Box and type "systempropertiesadvanced" (without quotes) and press Enter.
Then click the Settings button under 'Startup and Recovery'.
In the Startup and Recovery box, under System Startup if you want a Boot Menu to be shown when your PC first loads with a list of all installed Operating Systems, tick the 'Time to display list of operating systems' box and in the box next to it choose how many seconds you want the Boot Menu to remain on screen before it automatically loads up the default OS. If on the other hand you don't want a boot menu to be shown at all, and wa nt the default OS to load up straight away, untick the box.
The 'Time to display recovery options when needed' box should be ticked, and a reasonable amount of time entered, such as 15 seconds or more. The recovery options menu will only appear if you run into problems with Vista, and its features (such as Safe Mode) are covered under the Backup & Recovery chapter.
Another way to alter boot configuration is to use the Microsoft Configuration utility (MSConfig). Go to
Start>Search Box and type "msconfig" (without quotes) then press Enter. Go to the Boot tab of MSConfig and you will see under the 'Boot Options' section there are several options for altering the way your PC boots up.
These are primarily used for troubleshooting purposes. Highlight the install of Windows Vista you wish to alter then you can select one of these options to apply to it:
Safe Boot: If selected, the next boot will be into Safe Mode, as covered under the Backup & Recovery chapter.
Default Safe Mode is called Minimal; 'Alternate Shell' is Safe Mode with Command Prompt instead of GUI;
'Active Directory repair' is Safe Mode with GUI and Active Directory; Network is Safe Mode with GUI and Networking features enabled.
No GUI boot: Removes the default Windows Vista 'scrolling bars' startup screen when booting up, replaces it with the Aurora image. See the Graphics & Interface chapter for more details on how to customize the boot screen.
Boot log: Records all bootup information in a logfile stored under your \Windows directory as Ntbtlog.txt.
Base video: Boots up Vista using the standard Windows graphics drivers rather than the specific video driver for your graphics hardware.
OS boot information: Shows the names of all the drivers as they're being loaded during bootup.
The Timeout value in the box on the right is the same as the 'Time to display a list of operating systems'
setting covered under 'Startup and Recovery' further above - it controls how long the boot menu for
multiboot systems is shown.
If you click the 'Advanced Options' button you will see more advanced bootup options for troubleshooting:
Number of processors: If you have a multi-core CPU, you can tick this option and manually force all, some or
only one of the processors (cores) on the CPU be detected and used by Windows.
Maximum Memory: Allows you to manually force Windows to only use a certain amount of RAM on your system, up to and including your full physical RAM amount. Amount entered is in KiloBytes (KB).
PCI Lock: Stops Windows from dynamically assigning system resources to PCI devices. The devices will use the BIOS configuration instead.
Detect HAL: Forces Windows to redetect the Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) in case your hardware is incorrectly being detected/reported.
Debug: Starts Windows in debugging mode.
Once done selecting which bootup options you wish to apply to the boot configuration, click the Apply
button then OK, and these option(s) will come into effect on next boot. Should you wish to apply any
permanently, I recommend using BCDEdit or VistaBoot Pro rather than leaving them enabled in MSConfig.
THIRD PARTY TOOLS.
Aside from the built-in tools above, there are a range of third party tools you can use to do what is covered above more easily.
VistaBoot Pro is a tool for editing the boot configuration in Vista using a graphical interface and does not
require detailed knowledge of how the BCD works. Upon installation you will be prompted to make a
backup of your BCD database, which is strongly recommended before you do anything else. Should
anything go wrong with the BCD, you can go to the Backup/Restore Center button and restore your backed up BCD files.
VistaBoot Pro has a wide range of functions, but we'll cover only the major ones here. On the main 'View Settings' screen in VistaBoot Pro you can see a summary of the data held in the BCD. If you have a dual or multiboot setup, you should see all the operating systems listed with the correct drives shown. You can expand this display by clicking the Detailed or All options at the top of the screen. This is useful for troubleshooting, and also gives you some idea of the kind of data held in the BCD.
If you want to alter these entries, click the 'Manage OS Entries'. Here you can set the default OS and the timeout, though these are best altered using the normal Vista Startup and Recovery options as covered further above. Most interestingly, you can rename the OS entries which show up in the Boot Menu. By default, Vista insists on calling your older operating system 'Earlier version of Windows' in the Boot Menu, and it calls Vista simply 'Microsoft Windows'. To help prevent confusion and make things neater, click on each OS listed and tick the 'Rename selected operating system' checkbox - new options will appear allowing you to provide a new name and also change the drive letter if necessary.
For example I've renamed my listed OSes so that one says 'Windows XP' and the other says 'Windows Vista'. You can also add a new (Windows) OS listing here by ticking the 'Add new operating system entry' option and filling in the details. Finally, you can change the order in which the OSes are listed by highlighting the relevant OS and using the up or down arrows to the right.
The 'Advanced Settings' include various advanced features which the MSConfig utility can also accomplish, and these are covered further above. Some useful features you can use VistaBoot Pro for are:
Allow use of Unsigned drivers: By default the 64-bit version of Vista only allows signed drivers to be installed.
Ticking this option attempts to override that limitation - has no impact on 32-bit Vista editions.
PAE Enabled: If ticked enables Physical Address Extension (PAE) in Vista. This is necessary for correct
memory detection if you have more than 4GB of RAM in the 32-bit version of Vista.
DEP On: Data Execution Prevention (DEP) is on by default, but can be turned off here. DEP is covered in more detail in the PC Security chapter and generally should not be disabled.
Finally, the Bootloader section of VistaBoot Pro allows you to attempt to fix any problems with the Vista
bootloader, or to uninstall it if you've removed Vista from your system and you had a dual boot
configuration. By default, simply deleting/reformatting/removing the Vista drive or partition in a dual boot configuration may cause problems since Vista's bootloader is still resident on the older version of Windows.
This option lets you to remove the bootloader so you can boot into your older OS as normal.
VistaBoot Pro is a very useful tool for BCD editing, however if in doubt do not alter any settings, and if you wind up damaging your BCD or any other Vista boot files, use the Startup Repair functionality of Vista to fix the problem (See the Backup & Recovery chapter), or see the instructions here.
EasyBCD is another free automated utility which makes editing the Vista boot configuration much easier.
However it is virtually identical to VistaBoot Pro in terms of its ma jor features and functions, so it will not be covered in detail here. You can use either utility to achieve much the same results.
As mentioned in this Microsoft Article, Windows Vista does not use Boot Disks any more; the original Vista DVD is effectively a boot disk. If you're having problems booting up Windows, you can boot up using the original Vista DVD then use Startup Repair to automa tically detect and repair any issue preventing proper Windows startup. You can also access the DOS Command Prompt in the Vista Recovery Tools if necessary.
Details of these functions are covered under the Backup & Recovery chapter.
If you still want to create a Vista bootup floppy disk, you can do so according to the details here. If you want to start up your PC in very basic DOS mode and the Command Prompt mode of the Vista Recovery.
Environment is not appropriate for some reason, there are a range of bootdisks you can download here.
Ultimately there really shouldn't be a reason to alter your boot configuration under normal circumstances so I would approach the use of the tools above with caution, and initially rely on the automated Startup Repair feature of the Vista DVD itself to troubleshoot any bootup problems before moving on to other methods of altering the BCD.
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