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Creating Different Hardware Profiles in Windows XP

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 11/18/2011
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Learn how to create and configure hardware profiles for your Windows XP PC. Very simply put, a hardware profile is a set of instructions that tells Windows which hardware to start automatically when you start your PC. A hardware profile also tells Windows which settings to use for each hardware device. Windows XP uses the profile to decide what drivers and services to load on boot up too, among other things.

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    About Hardware Profiles

    Wouldn’t it be great if you could walk into your house, and say “Hello, house, it’s me, ," and all of the home’s hardware settings, such as the temperature of the heat and air, the dimness or brightness of the lights, and the slant of the window shades would position themselves automatically to your set preferences? What if you could also tell your home to turn on the TV and put it on a specific channel? Well, that day is almost here for our homes, but it’s already here for our Windows XP PCs. It’s easy to configure too, you just need to create a hardware profile.

    Tip: You can have multiple hardware profiles.

    Default Hardware Profiles

    When you installed or purchased your PC, it came with one profile, named creatively enough, Profile 1. This profile tells Windows XP to start all of your installed devices and their drivers when the PC boots. This includes printers, scanners, Web cams, microphones, monitors, external drives, external DVD or CD players, keyboards and mice, and anything else that you’ve physically connected.

    You can easily create a hardware profile so that when you boot it up, Windows automatically uses what you’ve configured as personal hardware settings, and enables or disables the hardware you do and don’t want to use. While creating these profiles makes the configuration of the PC as perfect as possible for your needs, it also allows the PC to perform better. Remember, the PC only needs to do what you need it to do; if it does more than necessary, you’re losing performance you could otherwise have.

    Note: A laptop comes with two hardware profiles: Docked and Undocked. The default settings for these will depend on the hardware you configure for both states. There’ll be a section on laptops later.

    Creating different hardware configurations can be quite useful too. You can have different hardware profiles for each user who accesses the PC, or, for different jobs performed by a single person at the PC. For instance, a teenager could create a gaming profile, while you could create a working one. The gaming profile could have advanced hardware devices configured such as handheld gaming hardware, while the working profile could have these disabled. The gaming profile could also have RAM configured differently than the working profile, and you could disable printers, scanners, and other unnecessary hardware. Remember, the more resources your PC has available, the better it will perform, and this is especially true for gamers.

    Tip: Of course, you’ll set your preferred screen resolution, hardware settings, mouse and keyboard settings, and other preferences too, all of which will either be part of the hardware profile or your user account preferences. Whatever the case, they’ll be available (or not available) at boot up.

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    Creat & Use a Gaming Profile

    When you boot your Windows XP PC, all hardware, necessary drivers, and personal settings for sound and video, RAM (virtual memory), and services (among other things), automatically start. You may not need or want all of these things to start, especially if you want to conserve resources because you’re planning on playing a resource-intensive game. Some items you may want to disable on boot up include:

    * Fast User Switching Compatibility

    * Help and Support

    * Messenger

    * Plug and Play

    * Themes

    * Windows Time

    For a normal setup, all of these services, your personal sound and video settings, your hardware, your RAM configuration, and more are, for the most part, the way you should have it configured.

    Tip: You can view services by opening Administrative Tools (you may have to choose Start and then Search to find them if you have Windows XP Home Edition), and by opening Services.

    For a gaming profile, you can disable printers and scanners, and you might want to disable Web cams or network cards too. You can also tweak virtual memory settings, enable specific functions of sound and video devices, or enable gaming hardware in Device Manager.

    Disabling Services

    Beyond the obvious though, you can also disable quite a few services. A gamer won’t need the Routing and Remote Access service, for instance, nor will he need the Help and Support service. Disabling services is easy; knowing which ones are safe to disable is a little more difficult. Let’s look at the former first. To disable a service, follow these steps:

    1. Open Administrative Tools. Administrative Tools is available from Control Panel in Windows XP Professional, and by searching in Windows XP Home Edition. Older versions of Windows won’t have these tools. To find out if your version has these tools, click Start, choose Search, and type Administrative Tools.

    2. Open Services.

    3. Select a service and double-click it. For the purpose of instruction here, select Alerter. The Alerter service notifies selected users and computers of administrative alerts. By default it is disabled.

    4. To change a services startup type, next to Startup Type choose Disabled, Manual, or Automatic.

    5. Click OK when finished and close the Services window. (You may want to click Cancel to make sure you do not make unwanted changes.)

    So what services are not necessary? Well, that all depends on what you do and don’t want your PC to be able to do. Here are a few of the services a gaming profile should have disabled:

    * Alerter

    * ClipBook

    * Computer Browser

    * Error Reporting Service

    * Help and Support

    * Indexing Service

    * Net Logon

    * Performance Logs and Alerts

    * Remote Desktop Help Session Manager

    * Remote Registry

    * Removable Storage

    * Routing and Remote Access

    * Server

    * Smart Card

    * Smart Card Helper

    * Themes

    * Windows Installer

    * Windows Time

    * Print Spooler

    Configure Options for Boot Up

    Now you can configure the options for boot up. You can choose a specific profile to be chosen each time you boot the PC, you can choose to show all of the profile choices for a specific amount of time and then have a specific one start automatically, or, you can choose to show all choices and not boot until one is selected. To set any of these configurations, follow these steps:

    1. Right-click My Computer and select Properties.

    2. In the System Properties dialog box, choose the Hardware tab.

    3. Click Hardware Profiles.

    4. In the Hardware Profiles dialog box, under Hardware Profiles Selection, make the appropriate choice. They are:

    a. Wait Until I Select A Hardware Profile. Check this is you don’t want the PC to boot until after you make a selection.)

    b. Select The First Profile Listed If I Don’t Select a Profile In _____ Seconds. (Select this if you want a profile to automatically start after a certain amount of time has passed. If you want the first profile listed to start automatically, select 0 seconds.)

    5. Click OK twice to exit.

    The point I want to make is a simple one; reduce the load on your PC for better gaming performance!

  • slide 3 of 3

    Creating a Laptop Profile

    When you boot your Windows XP PC, all hardware, necessary drivers, and personal settings for sound and video, RAM (virtual memory), and services (among other things), automatically start. You may not need or want all of these things to start, especially if you want to conserve resources because you’re trying to save battery power.

    Hardware Profiles

    Creating hardware profiles for a laptop is probably the best use of hardware profiles, and, perhaps why profiles were created in the first place. That’s because laptops are used in a variety of ways, as they can be docked and connected to additional hardware or a network, or undocked and connected wirelessly or by modem to another network or the Internet.

    A docked laptop may also use a better monitor, a real mouse, a full-sized keyboard, a network printer, or a Web cam. When the computer is not docked, and you don’t have that hardware available, there’s no need to have it enabled and the drivers installed. There’s also no need for the laptop to attempt to connect to a network that isn’t there. The laptop might also be used to join a domain at work, but used to join a workgroup at home. All of these factors make creating or tweaking profiles on a laptop a necessary part of owning one.

    When creating or tweaking a laptop’s docked and undocked profiles, make sure you answer the following questions ahead of time, and configure the profile accordingly:

    • In its docked state, what hardware does the laptop connect to?
    • In its undocked state, what hardware does the laptop connect to?
    • In its docked state, what network hardware does the laptop connect to?
    • In its undocked state, what network hardware does the laptop connect to (assuming a wireless connection is available)?
    • When docked, what is the name of the workgroup or domain?
    • When undocked, what is the name of the workgroup or domain?
    • When docked, is a modem used?
    • When undocked, is a modem used?
    • When docked or undocked, is a network card used? Bluetooth?
    • When docked, what screen resolution do you prefer? When undocked?
    • When docked do you have external speakers?
    • When undocked do you prefer to turn off the sound?
    • What power settings are configured while docked?
    • What power settings are configure when undocked?

    We’re sure you can think of other things as you sit down with each configuration and really think about what you use and what you don’t. Once you know, create or enable the profiles as shown in the next section, log on to those profiles, and configure the settings that are right for you.

    Creating a Hardware Profile and Configuring a Default Creating a hardware profiles requires three steps.

    First, you create the profile in System Properties.

    After rebooting and selecting that profile, you configure it in Device Manager.

    Finally, you decide if you want a certain profile to start automatically, or, after a specific amount of time, and you make that configuration change.

    The three procedures are detailed in this section.

    First, create a hardware profile. Hardware profiles are created in the System Properties dialog box, from the Hardware tab:

    1. Right-click My Computer and select Properties.

    2. In the System Properties dialog box, choose the Hardware tab.

    3. Click Hardware Profiles.

    4. Under Available Hardware Profiles, click Profile 1 (or in the case of a laptop, Docked Profile or Undocked Profile). Click Copy.

    5. In the Copy Profile dialog box, type a name for the new profile and click OK.

    6. Select the new profile, and click Properties.

    7. In the new profile’s Properties dialog box, check Always Include This Profiles As An Option When Windows Starts. (If this is a laptop, check This Is A Portable Computer, and choose a state - unknown, docked, or undocked.) Click OK.

    8. In the Hardware Profiles dialog box, select Wait Until I Select A Hardware Profile. Click OK.

    9. Click OK to close the System Properties dialog box. Next, you configure the new hardware profile.

    To configure the new hardware profile with hardware settings, hardware to start or disable, and any other preferences:

    1. Restart the computer and choose the new profile.

    2. Right-click My Computer and choose Properties.

    3. Select the Hardware tab.

    4. Select Device Manager.

    5. In Device Manager, choose devices to enable, configure, or disable. As an example, to disable any hardware device, double-click it, choose the General tab, and under Device Usage, select Do Not Use This Device In The Current Hardware Profile (Disable). You can enable or configure devices in the same manner.

    6. When finished, close Device Manager and click OK to close the System Properties dialog box.

    Finally, with the hardware profiles configured, you have three options for boot up. You can configure the PC so that a specific profile is automatically used each time you boot the PC, you can choose to show all of the profile choices for a specific amount of time and then have a specific one start automatically, or, you can choose to show all choices and not boot until one is selected.

    To set any of these configurations, follow these steps:

    1. Right-click My Computer and select Properties.

    2. In the System Properties dialog box, choose the Hardware tab.

    3. Click Hardware Profiles.

    4. In the Hardware Profiles dialog box, under Hardware Profiles Selection, make the appropriate choice. They are:

    a. Wait Until I Select A Hardware Profile. Check this is you don’t want the PC to boot until after you make a selection.)

    b. Select The First Profile Listed If I Don’t Select a Profile In _____ Seconds. (Select this if you want a profile to automatically start after a certain amount of time has passed. If you want the first profile listed to start automatically, select 0 seconds.) 5. Click OK twice to exit.

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