Starting Up Windows 2000

Starting Up Windows 2000

 Remember  The Windows 2000 startup process is very different from the process that is used to start up MS-DOS, Windows 95, or Windows 98. In these systems, the IO.SYS file is loaded, followed by the MSDOS.SYS file and the COMMAND.COM program. Windows 2000 does not use these files, and you only find them on PCs that are configured for a multiboot and on PCs with an early version of Windows or MS-DOS.

The general startup sequence that is used to start a Windows 2000 system is as follows:

  • Power-on self-test (POST): This is the same regardless of the operating system.

  • Initial startup: After the POST, the system BIOS looks for the drive from which it should start the operating system. The storage devices are checked in the sequence that is prescribed in the BIOS. A number of different error messages can be displayed if the operating system is not found.

  •  Instant Answer  Bootstrap Loader: The Bootstrap Loader program NTLDR loads the operating system’s files into memory from the boot partition. If the PC is set to multiboot, a multiple-boot menu is displayed, from which you can choose the operating system to be started. NTLDR processes the operating system selection and the hardware detection processes before passing control to the Windows 2000 kernel. NTLDR must be located in the root directory of the boot partition.

  • Operating system selection: If the PC is configured as multiboot, the system file BOOT.INI contains the list of available operating systems, including the path to the appropriate boot partitions. Windows 2000 can multiboot with multiple Windows 2000 versions, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT 4.0, MS-DOS, and OS/2. An example of the contents in the BOOT.INI file is as follows:

    [boot loader]
    [operating systems]
    multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\winnt= "Microsoft Windows 2000
    Professional" /fastdetect
    C:\="Windows 98"
  • Hardware detection: After the operating system is selected on a multiboot PC, or when only Windows 2000 is on the PC, NTDETECT.COM detects the hardware, creates a list of the installed hardware, and passes the list to NTLDR. The information that NTDETECT.COM passes includes

    • The computer ID and information on the bus

    • Installed adapters, keyboard, COM ports, floppy disk controller, mouse, and LPT ports

  • Hardware profile selection: Windows 2000 supports more than one hardware profile to allow multiple non–Plug and Play configurations of the PC. If multiple hardware configurations are defined, NTDETECT.COM prompts the user to choose a hardware profile. If only one hardware profile is in use, the default settings are used. One choice that is available on the hardware profile screen is the Last Known Good Configuration option, which overlays all changes in the Registry and control set since the last good boot. After the hardware profile is chosen, control passes back to NTLDR.

  • Windows 2000 kernel loads: NTLDR loads the Windows 2000 kernel and the Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) into memory. (See “Looking into Windows NT,” earlier in the chapter.) NTLDR then loads the Registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM from the folder %SystemRoot%\system32\Config\System and uses it to create the control set that is used to initialize the PC. This control set is used to start the operating system.

  • Startup: The system kernel initiates the Windows 2000 Professional splash screen, and the Starting Up progress bar is displayed across the bottom of the display. When the status bar completes, NTOSKRNL sets up any network information relating to the system.

  • Logon: WINLOGON.EXE and the Local Security Administration are started, and the Begin Logon box is displayed. Windows 2000 is still loading drivers and doing other tasks in the background, but you can log on. After the logon is complete, the desktop is displayed and the Last Known Good control set is created.

Solving startup problems

Many PC problems occur at startup. This is when hardware, software, and even operators break down the most frequently. This section covers some things that you should know about problems that occur during a Windows 2000 system startup.

Now where did I put that darn OS?

If the BIOS cannot find a system partition from which to load the operating system, the BIOS displays one of the following messages:

  • Nonsystem disk or disk error: A floppy disk that is not a boot disk is loaded in the floppy drive. This message appears when the A: drive is designated as the first boot drive.

  • Invalid partition table: If the BIOS is directed to a hard drive partition (C:, D:, and so on), and the partition is not a system partition, this message or the message Error loading operating system or Missing operating system is displayed.

Playing it safe

Most startup problems happen immediately after new hardware or software is installed and are typically directly related to that activity. The first step in troubleshooting a startup problem that occurs right after you’ve installed new stuff in the PC is to remove the new stuff and reboot to see if that really was the problem.

However, if nothing new was added, modified, or reconfigured on the PC, you must start at the beginning and drill down to the facts. If the PC freezes during startup or displays error messages (including those that were discussed in the preceding section), or you lose the function of any peripheral device, your best bet is to boot into Safe mode.

 Remember  Safe mode loads only a minimal configuration of the operating system and only those device drivers that are essential to starting Windows and allowing you to interface with the OS, such as drivers for the monitor, keyboard, mouse, hard drive, and floppy disk. Other drivers, such as those for serial and parallel ports and network support are not loaded in Safe mode. If the PC will not boot to Safe mode, check for system resource conflicts, a corrupted Registry, or device drivers that are incompatible with Windows 2000.

 Instant Answer  To enter Safe mode on a Windows 2000 system, press F8 when the prompt For troubleshooting and advanced startup options for Windows 2000, press F8 appears. Safe mode can be selected from the Advanced Options menu.

If you suspect the problem to be a corrupted Registry, the best course of action is to reboot, press F8 to enter the Advanced Options menu, and select the Last Known Good Configuration option to reset the PC’s configuration to what it was the last time that it booted successfully.

Getting the system information

If you are able to boot an ailing PC into Safe mode, use the Windows 2000 System Information utility (MSINFO32.EXE) to check for system resource, device, and file-sharing conflicts.

If you find conflicts, disable the device or devices in question and reboot to see if the problem is solved. Also, check the devices against the HCL to make sure that they are compatible with Windows 2000. You can use the Windows Update feature to search for compatible drivers, but you will probably be more successful in finding drivers at the device manufacturer’s Web site.

If no hardware conflicts exist, check the Software Environment of MSINFO32 for a list of the programs that are started when the PC starts. To see if the problem is in one of these programs, disable a program and restart the PC.

If the problem still exists, check the boot log file, NTBTLOG.TXT.

Shutting out shutdown problems

During the shutdown process on a Windows 2000 system, messages are sent to the peripheral devices, system services, and application programs to alert them that the system is shutting down. The system waits for responses from each of these elements, especially the applications, before beginning to shut down the device drivers, services, and applications. If a device driver, system service, antivirus software, or application does not respond, the shutdown process can hang.

The joy of Windows 2000 stop messages

To make sure that you don’t get too lonely for your old pal, the blue screen of death, Microsoft included this screen in Windows 2000. When Windows 2000 has an error from which it cannot recover, it displays a stop message — the blue-screen message. The following types of stop messages are generated on a Windows 2000 system:

  • Stop messages: This type of message is displayed when the Windows 2000 kernel detects a condition from which it cannot recover. These messages are displayed in full blue-screen glory, and each error type is identified by a hexadecimal error code and a symbolic name for the error. A stop message display looks something like this:

    Stop 0x0000000A or IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL

    Stop messages are grouped into the following categories:

    • Normal operations messages: Can be from a number of hardware or software sources.

    • Installation messages: Are typically HCL problems.

    • Initialization messages: Are caused by a device or system component that fails to initialize.

    • Software trap messages: Are errors in an application or system service that are detected by Windows 2000.

  • Hardware malfunction messages: These messages are displayed when the CPU detects a hardware problem that Windows 2000 cannot recover from. These messages typically take the following form:

    Hardware malfunction.
    Call your hardware vendor for support.

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