What Is the Microsoft System Configuration Utility (MSConfig) and How Do You Use It?

Windows comes with a plethora of hidden tools that lets you better control your system. One tool that has been in Windows for ages, but very few know about it, is the System Configuration Utility, also known as MSConfig.

From diagnosing general boot issues to performing a clean boot, you can do it all with the System Configuration Utility. So, here’s what Microsoft System Configuration Utility is and how you can use it to modify system settings.

What Is the Microsoft System Configuration Utility?

The Microsoft System Configuration Utility, aka MSConfig, is a built-in utility that lets you customize boot settings and disable (or enable) services and drivers. It allows you to choose which programs and services will run when Windows boots up.

System Configuration can troubleshoot various issues that arise in your system. When a program doesn’t start, for instance, opening and changing certain MSConfig settings might resolve it. There are plenty of other uses of the System Configuration Utility, but before getting into it, let’s check out how to open the MSConfig window.

To open the Microsoft System Configuration Utility, open the Run dialog box, type MSConfig, and press Enter. There are many other ways to open MSConfig on Windows. To know about them, check out our guide on various ways to open MSConfig in Windows 11.

1. Perform a Clean Boot

One of the most important uses of System Configuration Utility is to perform a Clean Boot. A Clean Boot, as the name suggests, boots up the system without third-party programs or services. Thus, the system starts with only essential Microsoft services running in the background.

Performing a clean boot helps to narrow down all the conflict-causing services. Windows won’t help you to boot in this state. You have to open the System Configuration and disable all the non-Microsoft services manually.

To launch into a clean boot environment, check out our guide on performing a clean boot on Windows 11.

2. Choose the Default Operating System

Do you have multiple Windows versions installed on your PC but prefer one over the other? If yes, you can make the preferred option the default operating system using the System Configuration Utility. To do this, follow the below steps.

  1. In the System Configuration window, switch to the Boot tab.
  2. Select the OS you want to make the default.
  3. Click on the Set as Default button.

  4. Click to Apply > OK.

You will see the Default OS label next to the selected OS, indicating that you have successfully set the default operating system. Windows will load your default operating system from future boot-ups.

There’s also a Timeout meter which you can configure if you have a dual-boot setup. The Timeout meter in MSConfig indicates how long (in seconds) Windows will stay on the boot screen until you select one of the operating systems. If you don’t choose either of the available options under the given time, Windows will start with the default OS.

By default, the Timeout meter gives you 30 seconds to make a choice. But if you don’t want to wait this long before your default OS boots up, you can set the Timeout meter to a smaller value, like five seconds.

3. Allocate a Particular Number of Cores to the OS

You can use System Configuration Utility to allocate a share of the system’s available processor cores. You can do this to test a program on how it will perform on a system that is comparatively less powerful than yours. It can also help to troubleshoot issues like high CPU usage.

Here’s how to allocate a particular number of cores to the OS using the System Configuration Utility.

  1. In the MSConfig window, switch to the Boot tab.
  2. Choose the default operating system, and then click on Advanced options.
  3. Check the box next to the Number of processors.
  4. Click on the drop-down icon under the Number of processors box, and choose the number of processors you want to allocate. Note that Windows will automatically select the maximum limit if you choose a number larger than the available processor cores.

  5. Click on OK > Apply > OK.

4. Boot Into Safe Mode

Safe Mode is a native Windows feature that allows you to troubleshoot critical Windows issues happening due to hardware and software malfunction. In the Safe Mode, Windows boots up with only those services and hardware that are important for Windows to work.

Follow the instructions below to boot Windows in Safe Mode using System Configuration Utility.

  1. Switch to the Boot tab in the System Configuration window.
  2. In the Boot options section, select the Safe boot option.

  3. Next, choose the Minimal option to troubleshoot basic issues. Select Network to Create Safe Mode in Networking, and select Alternate Shell to Create Safe Mode with Command Prompt.
  4. Click OK.
  5. Choose Restart from the prompt that appears.

  6. After restart, Windows will boot in Safe Mode.

Windows will continue to boot in Safe Mode until you manually go and disable this option. So, once your problem is fixed, you can disable the Safe Mode. To do this, open the System Configuration Utility, and choose Normal startup from the General tab. Click on Apply > OK.

There are many other ways to boot the system in Safe Mode. To know about them, check out our guide on various ways to boot into Safe Mode.

5. Other Boot Tab Settings

There are many other settings available in the Boot tab that be useful to optimize system performance. These settings contain various configuration options present inside the Windows information file.

  • No GUI boot – The No GUI boot option disables the graphical moving bar during boot. It reduces the boot time but, on the negative side, makes it impossible to know whether the system has frozen during boot.
  • Boot log – The Boot log option creates a text file containing a list of all the drivers that are loaded during boot. The list also contains the names of all the expected drivers that are not loaded.
  • Base video – The Base video option boots the system with the built-in video driver.
  • OS boot information – The OS boot information option shows different drivers that are active during the boot process. Make sure to use this option along with “No GUI boot;” otherwise, you will not be able to see the driver’s information.

System Configuration Utility has a Tools tab featuring various administrator utilities. The Tools tab is one place destination to access commonly used Windows utilities like Task Manager, UAC Settings, Event Viewer, Registry Editor, Command Prompt, and more.

Here’s how to access different utilities from the Tools tab.

  1. Switch to the Tools tab in the MSConfig window.
  2. Select the utility you want open, and then click the Launch button.

Everything About the Microsoft System Configuration Utility

Microsoft System Configuration Utility is a valuable tool that lets you customize Windows settings per your need. From changing boot options, confusing autostart applications, and disabling or enabling services; you can do it all with the System Configuration Utility.

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