Hardware profiles were originally designed to easily allow
laptop computers to be used in stand-alone and docking station configurations.
While these are still valid options, the advances in laptop technology and an
increase in the number of inexpensive peripheral devices mean that there may be
more than two types of configuration options for your laptop.

For example, in addition to having a full blown docking
station configuration in your office that provides a network and other
peripheral connections and a stand-alone configuration when your traveling with
your laptop, maybe you have a simple port replicator at a remote office you
visit regularly as well as a wireless network connection and an external DVD
drive at your home.

Of course with the advances in Plug and Play, chances are
that good that you can make the configuration changes needed at each location
without too much trouble–as long as you don’t encounter any device driver
conflicts. However, you can avoid all of those intermediary steps and any
problems that may accompany them by setting up different hardware profiles for
each location in which you connect different peripherals to your laptop.

In this article, I’ll examine hardware profiles in more
detail. As I do, I’ll show you how to set up and configure different hardware
profiles for your laptop in Windows XP. (Keep in mind that while I’ll focus on
Windows XP in this article, the steps are very similar for a laptop running
Windows 2000.

What’s a hardware profile?

When you use hardware profiles, each time you start your
laptop you’ll see a menu that prompts you to select a profile configured for
the devices at a particular location. Once you select a profile, the operating
system will load the drivers needed for the devices connected at that
particular location.

A hardware profile is
basically a set of instructions that tells the operating system which devices
are available and need to be enabled when you start your laptop. When you first
install Windows XP on a laptop, a hardware profile named Docked Profile or
Undocked Profile is created, depending on how your laptop is connected when you
install Windows XP. By default, every device that is installed on your computer
when you install Windows XP is enabled in that initial hardware profile.

Creating hardware profiles

Creating hardware profiles is actually very easy once you
know how to go about performing the operation. To begin, access the Control
Panel and double-click the system icon. When you see the System Properties
dialog box, select the Hardware tab, and then click Hardware Profiles button.
When you do so, you’ll see the Hardware Profiles dialog box, as shown in Figure
, and will see the Available Hardware Profiles list.

Figure A

When you install Windows XP, it
creates a default hardware profile that includes the devices that are connected
to the system at that time.

As you can see, on my example laptop the only hardware profile is called Undocked Profile, which
means that Windows XP was installed while the laptop was in a stand alone
configuration. It also indicated that this laptop has never been connected to a
docking station. Keep in mind that if your laptop is Plug and Play compliant,
the Windows XP operating system will automatically create a Docked Profile when
the computer is connected to a docking station.

To begin preparing your laptop for additional hardware
profiles, you’ll first rename the default profile using a more descriptive
name. To do so, simply select the Rename button, type the new name in the
Rename Profile dialog box, and click OK. To enable the Hardware Profile Menu–which
will appear when you start your computer–and to add the profile to the menu,
select the Properties button to display the dialog box, shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Once you create a hardware profile,
be sure that you select the check box in the Hardware Profiles Selection panel.

As you can see, the center panel is disabled but that the
This Is A Portable Computer and The Computer Is Undocked check boxes are
selected. The operating system disables this panel when it detects that the
laptop isn’t connected to a docking station. When the laptop is connected to a
docking station, this panel will be enabled.

To continue with the configuration, select the Always
Include This Profile As An Option When Windows Starts check box and click OK.

Working with multiple profiles

You can now use the
Copy button to create as many additional hardware profiles as you need. Then,
rename each one with a descriptive name related to the location. As you do, be
sure to access the properties dialog box of each new hardware profile and
select the Always Include This Profile As An Option When Windows Starts check
box in order to include each hardware profile on the menu.

At this point, you
can configure how the menu operates as well as set up your preferred hardware
profile. The preference of the hardware profiles is based on their position in
the Available Hardware Profiles list, from top to bottom. The first profile in
the list is loaded as the default hardware configuration during startup.

To reorder the list, select a profile and use the arrow
buttons on the right to move the selected profile up or down in the list. You
can then configure the menu to wait indefinitely for you to choose a profile,
or to pause for a set amount of time and then load the default profile once the
time expires. Be default, the menu is configured to display for 30 seconds, as
shown in Figure C.

Figure C

You can choose which hardware
profile will be the default by using the arrow buttons to move that profile to
the top of the list.

To complete the
initial configuration operation, click OK to close the Hardware Profiles dialog
box. Then, close the System Properties dialog box.

Once you’ve created your hardware profiles, restart your
system. As the system restarts, you’ll see the Hardware Profile/Configuration
Recovery Menu, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

Once you enable your hardware
profiles, you’ll see this menu when your computer starts up.

Choose one of the new
profiles to make it the current profile. Once the system starts with that
profile, you can then launch Device Manager and customize the profile by
enabling or disabling devices specific to that location.

For example, you might want to disable the wireless network
adapter in the Mobile profile, because in this environment you use your modem
to connect to the Internet. To do so, you’d access the wireless network adapter’s
properties dialog box in Device Manager and select the Do Not Use This Device
In The Current Hardware Profile (Disable) setting in the Device Usage drop
down, as shown in Figure E. Then, click OK to exit this dialog box and click OK
again to exit Device Manager.

Figure E

You’ll disable those devices that
you don’t want to use in a particular hardware profile.

Now, every time you select the Mobile profile, the wireless
network card will be disabled by default. You may also want to disable the
wireless network adapter in the Office and Remote Office profiles if you use a
wired connection in those locations and don’t want your laptop attempting to
connect to the wireless networks that are available in those locations. You can
then enable or disable other devices as well.