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Windows Vista hints and tips

Tips index

Boot up in diagnostic mode

When you've got a problem with Windows and it is not working properly, what can you do? The problem might be caused by a program loading in the background. Windows runs lots of programs and services in the background and one of them could be interfering with the normal operation of Windows or is faulty and is displaying error messages.

Windows Vista msconfigTo see if it's a background program or service, click the Start button at the left-hand side of the taskbar at the foot of the screen, type in msconfig and press Return. The System Configuration utility will appear and on the General tab are some useful options.

The Normal startup option loads everything, which is fine if your computer is working perfectly, but Windows often loads stuff that is not strictly necessary. If you have disabled any unwanted items on the Startup tab you'll find that the Selective startup option is the currently selected one.

What we want to do is to find out if a startup item is causing problems, so select the Diagnostic startup option. This prevents Windows from loading anything that isn't absolutely necessary when it starts up.

You'll find that some things don't work, such as utilities that normally load into the notification area of the taskbar (the icons at the right-hand side), but that's the whole point. You want to know if Windows works OK without all the usual rubbish and if it does, you'll know that the problem is with one or more of these background programs.

Choosing the Diagnostic startup option won't tell you which program is causing the problem, but at least it narrows it down to one of the startup items on the Services or Startup tabs. Don't forget to set the Normal startup option when you have finished and want to return Windows to its normal state.