Windows

Monitor Windows 7 boot logs with the help of msconfig

If you just want to analyze what occurs during the boot process on a Windows 7 machine, Jack Wallen says msconfig is the perfect tool for the job.

In IT, information is king. Keeping tabs on a machine --  knowing what is happening, knowing what is running, knowing what is starting at bootup -- is one of the key elements in maintaining a healthy system. To keep control over what is running, you can always use a tool like Autoruns, but for some, that tool is overkill.

If you just want to analyze what occurs during the boot process on a Windows 7 machine, you should consider using msconfig.exe. With msconfig, you can set up a boot logger that will log every driver that is loaded during the boot process. Once you have this information, you can troubleshoot numerous problems. Here's how to enable the boot log using Windows built-in msconfig.exe tool.

Step 1: Fire up msconfig

To open the tool, do the following:

  1. Click the Super-r (aka Windows-R) key combination to open the run dialog.
  2. Type msconfig.exe.
  3. Click either OK or the Enter key to run the command.

Step 2: Enable boot log

Once the msconfig tool is opened, click the Boot tab (Figure A), check the box for Boot Log, and click OK. You'll receive a prompt to reboot the machine, which you'll need to do to complete the setup. Figure A

Click the image to enlarge.

Step 3: View the logfile

When the reboot completes, open the msconfig tool. In order to view the log file, do the following:

  1. Open Notepad by going to Start | All Programs | Accessories | Notepad or opening the Run dialog, typing notepad.exe, and clicking OK.
  2. Navigate to C:\Windows\ and open the file ntbtlog.txt.
  3. Pour through the boot log (Figure B) to troubleshoot whatever issue you are having. You can also see what service pack the machine has installed from this log.

Figure B

Click the image to enlarge.

Step 4: Save the file

Every time you reboot Windows, new entries will be added to this log; this means the log can get long, and too many entries will cause problems troubleshooting. Since there is no method of log rotation here, you might save the file in a dated folder, so you know exactly what you are dealing with. You can also delete the old entries from the log file to save this from growing too large.

Once you complete troubleshooting, you might consider disabling the feature, as msconfig will continue logging.

What to do?

Once you locate a problem driver, you can continue using the msconfig tool to disable any unwanted drivers from being loaded. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Open msconfig.
  2. Click the Startup tab.
  3. Scroll through the listing (Figure C) and uncheck what you do not want loading. Make sure you know for sure which drive you are disabling before you follow through.

Figure C

Click the image to enlarge.

If the offending driver isn't listed in this tab, said driver could be a piece of malicious software and would need to be removed using your anti-malware tool of choice.

The second method of removing stubborn startup apps is done through the registry (note: make sure you back up your registry before you make any edits or delete any entries):

  1. Open the registry by typing regedit at the run dialog.
  2. Navigate to HKEY_Local_Machine/Software/Microsoft/Sharedtools/MSconfig.
  3. Look in the StartupFolder and StartupReg folders and delete unwanted entries.

After you remove drivers/applications from loading at boot, restart the computer and then go back to the boot log to make sure those offending drivers/applications aren't loading. You should no longer find entries for them in the log file.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

6 comments
Gisabun
Gisabun

Get Autoruns from Sysinternals/Microsoft. Run it as administrator and then REALLY look what is loading in Windows [trashing the multiple Google updaters for starters plus files that don't even exist].

sightsandsounds
sightsandsounds

Told You I was busy on the internet,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Wileya77
Wileya77

3rdWick - get winpatrol 25 (free)

3rdWick
3rdWick

Msconfig looks different in XP, I don't see the same functionality. My laptop takes over 5min to boot, that's 300 seconds, an eternity for a processor. I just use Standby for weeks, till the poor machine can't take it anymore. Any help would be appreciated.

Julie9009
Julie9009

I know it may be an obvious point, but XP can be very slow to start up if it doesn't have sufficient RAM. An absolute minimum is 512MB, but that is with no additional software or drivers. I had a laptop running XP with 1GB of RAM. Adding 2GB (for a total of 3GB) significantly improved startup times (as well as running much better once booted).

dav532000
dav532000

You can use Msconfig to see if any drivers/services are hanging at startup which slows you laptop considerably. Open Msconfig then disable everything from starting at startup. Restart your laptop and if it starts much quicker then re-enable each item and re-start the laptop, untill you find the startup item that is the culprit then delete it and if you need it re-install it. If no startup items are to blame then do exactly the same with the Services Tab, if that makes no difference thenyou need CCleaner and Kingsoft Pc Doctor and give your machine a good clean out.

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