If you've used Windows NT for a while, you've probably seen the message "At least one service or driver failed on system startup." Sometimes a peripheral is not connected, or in the case of a laptop computer, you are not on the network. If you routinely work with varying configurations, consider setting up several hardware profiles to reflect each configuration, and put an end to those annoying messages at startup.
Adding a New Hardware Profile
First, you need to add a new hardware profile. From the Start menu, Settings, Control Panel, go to the System folder, and select the Hardware Profiles tab in the dialog box. The first time you use this dialog box, the original profile is the only one showing. It will serve as a template for the new profiles.
Copy the original profile to a new profile, and give the copy a suiTable name. You can make several copies, each for a different hardware configuration, as Screen 1 shows. You can move the various profiles up or down in the list. The profile at the top of the list becomes the default.
During system startup, if you do not select a profile within a specified time, your system boots with the profile at the top of the list. As you see in the Hardware Profiles dialog box in Screen 1, you can vary the startup timeout.
Configuring a Hardware Profile
Now that the hardware profiles are in place, you can customize them for each hardware configuration. NT helps with the porTable computer profile configuration. Select the porTable configuration that you'll use when the porTable is not connected to the network (in my example in Screen 1, I've named it On the Road). Click Properties to get the dialog box in Screen 2. The options let you specify whether to use this profile when the computer is connected to the network or when it's off the network. For this traveling profile, select The computer is undocked. Then go to the network tab to specify that this profile is a Network-disabled hardware profile, as Screen 3 shows.
The second new profile takes a little more work but is still easy to conFigure. I set up this profile because I have an Exabyte tape drive that is not always connected to the SCSI controller (I can move it around from system to system). Of course, when the tape drive is not connected, a warning appears on startup because the device driver will not load unless it detects the hardware. To conFigure this profile, exit the Hardware Profiles tab and the System Properties folder, but keep the Control Panel open. Open the Devices folder, and find the device that you want to conFigure. I've chosen the exabyte1 device driver, as Screen 4 shows.
With the appropriate device driver selected, click HW Profiles to open the profile configuration dialog box. Then enable or disable the device driver for each profile. In my tape drive example, the device driver will load only if I've selected the Exabyte profile. You can turn multiple device drivers on or off for each profile. If you are not sure which devices to conFigure, check the Event Viewer. The Event Viewer system log will list any devices that fail to load.
So far, I've looked at configuring devices for each profile. But, you can also conFigure services. For example, in the network-disabled profile, suppose you want to turn off the Messenger service. This service is not turned off automatically when you conFigure the computer to be off the network, so you'll get a warning message when the service tries to start up. You conFigure services the same way that you conFigure devices. When you finish configuring the device drivers and the services, close all the dialog boxes, and restart NT.
Selecting a Hardware Profile
You select the hardware profile during NT startup. You will see a message to press the spacebar to invoke the Hardware Profile/Last Known Good Configuration menu. If you set a time delay on the profile choices, the system will show the available choices, wait for the delay time, and start with the first profile on the list unless you specify otherwise. Now that you've conFigured hardware profiles, your system will boot without any warning messages and entries in the Event Log.
The Network-Disabled Profile
PorTable computer users will find the network-enabled or network-disabled choice useful. Ordinarily, when NT does not find the network (or the network card, which is back at the office in the docking station), you'll see a cascade effect as all the network services fail.
Let's look at what happens when you activate the network-disabled profile. Go back into the Control Panel, Device dialog box, and find your network card device drivers. Click HW Profiles. In my example, Screen 5 shows that the network card is disabled for the On the Road profile.
The Future of Hardware Profiles
The implementation of NT hardware profiles is not as far-reaching or as thorough as in Windows 95. That situation results from the lack of plug-and-play support and effective PC Card support in NT 4.0. Expect to see more comprehensive support for features such as PC Cards, hot docking and undocking, and plug-and-play in NT 5.0. But while you are waiting for NT 5.0, take advantage of the many situations in which you can conFigure and use hardware profiles on NT 4.0.