Windows

Build Your Skills: Get to know Windows XP's Bootcfg command

See how Windows XPs Bootcfg command can save you a lot of time and frustration when you need to edit the Boot.ini file.

Windows XP comes with a new tool designed to make it easier for you to configure and troubleshoot problems with the Boot.ini file. The Bootcfg command is available both as a stand-alone command line tool and as a part of the Recovery Console. This command can save you a lot of time and frustration when you need to edit the Boot.ini file. You need to have a solid understanding of how this tool works and when to use it.

In this Daily Drill Down, I’ll explain in detail all of the features and options that the Bootcfg command puts at your disposal. As I do, I’ll take a look at both the Recovery Console and the command line versions of the Bootcfg command.

When to use the Recovery Console and the command line
Often a problem rooted in the Boot.ini file can render Windows XP incapable of booting up correctly. Many IT pros think the only solution to this problem is to start from scratch and reinstall the operating system. However, that’s not always the best solution; sometimes the Boot.ini file can be repaired.

When the problem prevents Windows XP from booting up correctly, you’ll use the Recovery Console version of the Bootcfg command. There are other times when a problem in the Boot.ini file is a subtle one that doesn’t cause major boot problems, but it needs to be fixed nonetheless. In this situation, you can use the command line version of the Bootcfg command.

Using the Recovery Console version
Of course, using the Recovery Console version of the Bootcfg command means that you must first launch the Recovery Console. To do so, insert the Windows XP CD and restart the system. If the system is capable of booting from the CD, follow the onscreen instructions to do so. If it isn’t, find out about using Windows XP Setup Boot Disks here.

Now, simply follow the prompts that will allow the loading of the basic files needed to run Setup. When you see the Welcome to Setup screen, shown in Figure A, press R to start the Recovery Console.

Figure A
At this screen, press R to start the Recovery Console.


You’ll then see a Recovery Console menu that displays the folder containing the operating system’s file and asks you to choose which operating system you want to log onto. If you have multiple operating systems installed on the computer, the menu might look like the one shown in Figure B. Make sure that you choose the folder containing Windows XP by pressing the appropriate menu number.

Figure B
It is imperative that you select the number associated with Windows XP.


Note
If you only have Windows XP installed on the computer, you still must select the menu number. If you simply press [Enter], Windows will restart.

When you make a selection, you’ll be prompted to enter the administrator’s password. Once you’re at the main Recovery Console prompt, you can enter the Bootcfg command with any of its parameters. The Bootcfg command’s parameters are listed and described in Table A.

Table A
These are the Bootcfg command’s parameters for entry at the Recovery Console prompt.


Using the command line version
As I mentioned earlier, you’ll use the command line version of the Bootcfg command to make changes to the Boot.ini file whenever you can still boot the operating system normally. Furthermore, you can use the command line version of the Bootcfg command to make changes to the Boot.ini file on remote computers,

To begin, simply launch a Command Prompt window from the Start menu. You can then enter the Bootcfg command along with any of its main parameters. The command line version of the Bootcfg command’s main parameters are listed and described in Table B.

Table B
These are the Bootcfg command’s parameters for entry at the Command Prompt.


Why use the command line version of Bootcfg?
When you first learn about the existence of the command line version of the Bootcfg command, you may wonder why you’d want to use it in the first place since the Boot.ini file is simply an ASCII text file that you can easily edit in Notepad. The Bootcfg command was introduced because many folks manually editing the Boot.ini file were inadvertently introducing syntax errors to the file, which were further complicating problems. For that reason, Microsoft designed the command line version of the Bootcfg command as a tool that you can use to automatically make the most common changes to the Boot.ini file without the need for manual editing of the file. Another big advantage to the command line version of the Bootcfg command is that it allows you to remotely change the Boot.ini file on other computers on your network.

The subparameters
After reading through the list of Bootcfg parameters listed in Table B, you’re probably wondering how those few parameters will allow you to perform all the options listed in the description. Well, the answer is: they can’t do it alone. Each one of the Bootcfg command’s 11 main parameters has its own extensive set of subparameters that provide you with more control for fine-tuning the process of editing of the Boot.ini file. 

For example, the /Delete parameter, which you can use to delete any existing boot entry in the Boot.ini file, has four additional subparameters (see Table C). Let’s take a closer look. The full syntax for the Bootcfg /Delete parameter is
Bootcfg /Delete [/s Computer [/u Domain\User /p Password]] [/id OSEntryLineNum]

Table C
These are the Bootcfg /Delete subparameters.


Where to go for more info
As you can imagine, the subparameters for some of the other main parameters can be very detailed. I can’t possibly go over each and every one of them in this article. However, now that you know that these subparameters exist, you can track them down in Windows XP’s Help and Support Center.

To do so, launch the Help And Support Center and click the Use Tools To View Your Computer Information And Diagnose Problems link in the Pick A Task section. Then, scroll through the Tools panel and select Command-Line Reference A-Z option. When you get to the Command-Line Reference A-Z page, click B in the alphabetical list and then select the Bootcfg link. You’ll then see a list of all the Bootcfg command’s main parameters. Clicking on any one of them reveals very detailed descriptions of all the subparameters, as shown in Figure C. You’ll even find examples that will help you to understand how the parameter is used.

In addition, you can find the same detailed information on the Microsoft TechNet site.

Figure C
The Help and Support Center contains detailed descriptions of each of the Bootcfg parameters.


 

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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