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Managing System Environments, Profiles, and Properties

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By William R. Stanek

from Chapter 2, Windows NT Administrator's Pocket Consultant .

The System utility is used to manage system environments, profiles, and properties. Start it by double-clicking on the System icon in the Control Panel. This opens the dialog box shown in Figure 2-9. As you see, the dialog box is divided into six tabs. Each of these tabs is discussed in the sections that follow.

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Figure 2-9: The System utility is used to manage system environment variables, profiles, and properties.

Determining System Information

General system information is available for any Windows NT workstation or server via the System utility's General tab shown in Figure 2-9.

The information provided by the General tab helps you determine the following:

  • Operating system version

  • Registered owner

  • Windows NT serial number

  • Computer type

  • Amount of RAM installed on the computer

To access the General tab, start the System utility by double-clicking on the System icon in the Control Panel. Then click on the General tab.

Note: If you are trying to determine the service pack version installed on the system, check the Version tab of Windows NT Diagnostics. For more information, see the section of Chapter 3 titled "Diagnosing System Problems."

Configuring Application Performance and Virtual Memory

Application performance and virtual memory are configured via the System utility's Performance tab shown in Figure 2-10, on the following page. To access the Performance tab, start the System utility by double-clicking on the System icon in the Control Panel, then click on the Performance tab.

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Figure 2-10: The Performance tab lets you configure application performance and virtual memory.

Setting Application Performance

Application performance determines the responsiveness of the current active application (as opposed to background applications that may be running on the system). You control application performance with the Performance tab's Boost slider, which works as follows:

  • Set Boost to Maximum to give the active application the best response time and the greatest share of available resources.

  • Set Boost to an intermediate value to give background applications a better response time but still give the active application more processing time.

  • Set Boost to None to give all applications equal response time and equal amounts of processing time.

Setting Virtual Memory

Virtual memory allows you to use disk space to extend the amount of available RAM on a system. This feature of Intel 386 and later processors writes RAM to disks using a process called paging. With paging, a set amount of RAM, such as 32 MB, is written to the disk as a paging file where it can be accessed from the disk when needed.

An initial paging file is created automatically for the drive containing the operating system. By default, other drives do not have paging files, and you must create these paging files manually if you want them. When you create a paging file, you set an initial size and a maximum size. Paging files are written to the volume as a file called PAGEFILE.SYS.

Best Practice Microsoft recommends that you create a paging file for each volume on the system. On most systems, multiple paging files can improve the performance of virtual memory. Thus instead of a single large paging file, it is better to have many small paging files. Keep in mind that removable drives do not need paging files.

Configuring virtual memory You can configure virtual memory by completing the following steps:

  1. Start the System utility by double-clicking on the System icon in the Control Panel, then click on the Performance tab.

  2. Choose Change in the Virtual Memory area to display the dialog box shown in Figure 2-11.

    • The Drive header shows how virtual memory is configured currently on the system. Each volume is listed with its associated paging file (if any). The paging file range shows the initial and maximum size values set for the paging file.

    • Paging File Size For Selected Drives provides information on the currently selected drive and allows you to set its paging file size. Current Space Available tells you how much space is available on the drive.

    • Total Paging File Size For All Drives provides a recommended size for virtual RAM on the system and tells you the amount currently allocated. If this is the first time you are configuring virtual RAM, you'll note that the recommended amount has already been given to the system drive (in most instances).

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    Figure 2-11: Virtual memory extends the amount of RAM on a system.

    Tip Although Windows NT can expand paging files incrementally as needed, this can result in fragmented files, which slow system performance. For optimal system performance, set the initial size and maximum size to the same value. This ensures that the paging file is consistent and can be written to a single contiguous file (if possible, given the amount of space on the volume).

  3. Select the volume you want to work with in the Drive list box.

  4. Use the Paging File Size For Selected Drive area to configure the paging file for the drive. Enter an initial size and a maximum size, then choose Set to save the changes.

    Note: The paging file is also used for debugging purposes when a STOP error occurs on the system. If the paging file on the system drive is smaller than the minimum amount required to write the debugging information to the paging file, this feature will be disabled. If you want to use debugging, the minimum size should be set the same as the amount of RAM on the system. For example, a system with 128 MB of RAM would need a page file of 128 MB on the system drive.

  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for each volume you want to configure.

  6. Click OK, and if prompted to overwrite an existing pagefile.sys file, click Yes.

  7. Close the System utility and choose Yes to restart the system when prompted.

Setting Registry Size

Windows NT allows you to control the maximum amount of memory and disk space used by the registry. Setting a size limit on the registry doesn't allocate space or guarantee that space is available if needed. Instead, space is used only as required up to the maximum allowable value. You set a limit on the registry by following these steps:

  1. Log on to the system using an account with administrator privileges.

  2. Start the System utility by double-clicking on the System icon in the Control Panel, then click on the Performance tab.

  3. Choose Change in the Virtual Memory area. In the Virtual Memory dialog box enter a new maximum registry size using the Maximum Registry Size field.

Configuring System and User Environment Variables

System and user environment variables are configured via the System utility's Environment tab shown in Figure 2-12. To access the Environment tab, start the System utility by double-clicking on the System icon in the Control Panel, then click on the Environment tab.

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Figure 2-12: The Environment tab lets you configure system and user environment variables.

Creating an environment variable You can create environment variables by doing the following:

  1. Select an item in the System Variables or User Variables list box.

  2. Enter the variable name in the Variable field and then enter the variable value in the Value field.

  3. Choose Set.

Editing an environment variable You can edit an existing environment variable by doing the following:

  1. Select the variable in the System Variables or User Variables list box.

  2. Enter a new value in the Value field.

  3. Choose Set.

Deleting an environment variable You can delete an environment variable by selecting the variable and then choosing Delete.

Note: When you create or modify system environment variables, the changes take effect when you restart the computer. When you create or modify user environment variables, the changes take effect the next time the user logs on to the system.

Configuring System Startup and Recovery

System startup and recovery properties are configured via the System utility's Startup/Shutdown tab shown in Figure 2-13, on the following page. To access the Startup/Shutdown tab, start the System utility by double-clicking on the System icon in the Control Panel. Then click on the Startup/Shutdown tab.

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Figure 2-13: The Startup/Shutdown tab lets you configure system startup and recovery procedures.

Setting Startup Options

The System Startup area of the System utility's Startup/Shutdown tab controls system startup. To set the default operating system, select one of the operating systems listed in the Startup field. These options are obtained from the operating system section of the system's BOOT.INI file.

At startup, Windows NT displays the startup configuration menu for 30 seconds by default. You can change this value by using the Show List For field. Generally, on most systems you will want to use a value of 3–5 seconds. This is long enough to be able to make a selection, yet short enough to expedite the system startup process.

Setting Recovery Options

Recovery options allow administrators to control precisely what happens when the system encounters a fatal system error (also known as a STOP error). You can set these options via the System utility's Startup/Shutdown tab. The available options include:

  • Write an event to the system log Logs the error in the system log, which allows administrators to review the error later using the Event Viewer.

  • Send an administrative alert Sends an alert to the recipients specified in the Alert dialog box. For more information, see the section of this chapter titled "Setting Up Alerts."

  • Write debugging information to Instructs the system to write debugging information to a dump file, which can be used to diagnose the problem. If you set this option, you must specify a file name.

  • Overwrite any existing file Check this option to ensure that any existing dump files are overwritten if a new stop error occurs. Generally, it's a good idea to select this option, especially if you have limited drive space.

  • Automatically reboot Check this option to have the system attempt to reboot when a fatal system error occurs.

Best Practice The dump file can only be created if the system is properly configured. The system drive must have a sufficiently large memory paging file (as set for virtual memory via the Performance tab), and the drive where the dump file is written must have free space of equal size. For example, my server has 128 MB of RAM and requires a paging file on the system drive of the same size—128 MB. Since the same drive is used for the dump file, the drive must have at least 256 MB of free space to create the debugging information correctly (that's 128 MB for the paging file and 128 MB for the dump file).

Note: Configuring automatic reboots isn't always a good thing. Sometimes you may want the system to halt rather than reboot, which should ensure that the system gets proper attention. Otherwise, you can only know that the system rebooted when you view the System logs or if you happen to be in front of the system's monitor when it reboots.

Configuring Hardware Profiles

Windows NT workstations and servers can use multiple hardware profiles. Hardware profiles are most useful for mobile computers, such as laptops. Using hardware profiles, you can configure one profile for when the computer is connected to the network (called docked) and one profile for when the computer is mobile (called undocked).

Configuring the Way Hardware Profiles Are Used

Hardware profiles are configured via the System utility's Hardware Profiles tab shown in Figure 2-14. As with systems with multiple operating

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Figure 2-14: Multiple hardware profiles can be configured for any Windows NT system.

systems, Windows NT allows you to configure the way hardware profiles are used:

  • Set a default profile by changing the profile's position in the Available Hardware Profiles list. The top profile is the default profile.

  • Determine how long the system displays the startup hardware profile menu by setting a value using the Wait For User Selection For field. The default value is 30 seconds.

  • Have the system wait indefinitely for user input by selecting Wait Indefinitely For User Selection.

Configuring for Docked and Undocked Profiles

To configure a computer for docked and undocked profiles, follow these steps:

  1. Select Original Profile in the Available Hardware Profiles list, then click on Copy.

  2. In the Copy Profile dialog box, enter a name for the Docked profile in the To field.

  3. Select the new profile, then click on the Properties button.

  4. Check the This Is A Portable Computer check box, then choose The Computer Is Docked.

  5. Click on the Network tab and make sure the Network-disabled hardware profile check box is not selected. Alternately, you can enable and disable services for the profile via the HW Profiles button of the Service utility.

    Note: You can enable or disable services in the Service utility as follows: Select the service and then click HW Profiles. Next, choose the profile you want to work with, then click Enable or Disable as appropriate.

  6. Click OK.

  7. Select Original Profile in the Available Hardware Profiles list, then click on Copy.

  8. In the Copy Profile dialog box, enter a name for the Undocked profile in the To field.

  9. Select the new profile, then click on the Properties button.

  10. Check the This Is A Portable Computer check box, then choose The Computer Is Undocked.

  11. Click on the Network tab and select the Network-disabled Hardware Profile check box. Alternately, you can enable and disable services for the profile via the HW Profiles button of the Service utility.

  12. Click OK.

  13. Now set the default hardware profile as appropriate for the computer's current state as either docked or undocked.

  14. You're done. Click OK.

When the system is booted, the hardware profiles now are displayed and the user can select the appropriate profile.

Configuring User Profiles

User profiles are configured via the System utility's User Profiles tab. The various types of user profiles are discussed in the section of Chapter 5 titled "Local, Roaming, and Mandatory Profiles." Managing existing user profiles in the System utility is covered in the section of Chapter 6 titled "Managing User Profiles."

from Windows NT Administrator's Pocket Consultant by William R. Stanek. Copyright © 1999 Microsoft Corporation.

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