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How to Delete, Modify or Disable an Incorrect or Duplicate Entry on the XP Boot Menu

Have you ever inherited a computer that has more than one entry on the Windows XP boot menu screen? Most of the time one of the entries doesn’t even work in the first place, and then you’re forced to either hit a key or wait 30 seconds every time.

Note: If you’re on Windows 7 or Vista, there’s a different method required for removing boot menu items.

There are two options to get around this: You can remove the offending boot menu item, or you can just turn off the boot menu from being displayed. If you aren’t tech savvy, you’ll want to just use the second option.

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Thanks to my friend Shawn for forgetting how to do this and prompting me to write this article. =)

Removing an Incorrect Boot Menu Option on XP

Note: This method involves modifying a very important boot configuration file. You should proceed with caution and always make sure you have backups of your files just in case something goes wrong.

All of the boot menu options in Windows XP are stored in the boot.ini file in the root of your boot drive, usually the C: drive. You’ll need to first set the file to be writeable by using the attrib command from the command prompt:

attrib -r boot.ini

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Now you can open up the boot.ini file in Notepad by going to Start \ Run and typing in the following:

notepad c:\boot.ini

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In this file you’ll see the same options that you normally see in the boot menu. Take special note of the default= item, as that should be pointing to one of the items in the list (normally the top one).

Tip: Everything after the “=” character in the default line should match everything before the “=” character in the [operating systems] section. Remember this when making edits.

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If you want to remove the second item in the list, and the first one is set to the default, you can just delete that line from the file: (you should really backup the boot.ini file before you make any changes)

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If the problem is that the first line is set to default, but the second line is the one that works, you’ll want to remove the offending line from the [operating systems] section, and then MODIFY the DEFAULT= line to match the correct one. In this example, I set the partition to (2) instead of (1) in the default line.

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Again, you should be very careful when manually editing this file.

Disable the Boot Menu the Easy Way

Instead of risking screwing something up by manually editing the file, you can just disable the boot menu entirely, which is much safer. There’s no reason to show the menu if you only make one choice, and not really any good reason to edit the file manually.

You can either right-click on My Computer and choose Properties, or type sysdm.cpl into the Start \ Run box to bring up the System Properties window. Once there, go to Advanced \ Startup and Recovery \ Settings as shown below:

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In the Startup and Recovery dialog, make sure the default operating system is correct, and then uncheck the option for “Time to display list of operating systems”, and close the dialog.

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At this point you should be able to reboot, and the menu should be gone.

Extra Credit: You’ll notice the Edit button in this dialog… this opens up boot.ini in Notepad, just like in the first method above.

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Next week we’ll cover how to deal with incorrect items in your Vista boot menu.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 12/18/08

Comments (18)

  1. Teguh Aditya

    I thought you can just click at “Check all boot paths” ?

  2. bishpuppy

    or even easier way (xp, not sure about vista) is to
    click on start – run
    type in “MSCONFIG” —- without the ”
    Click on BOOT.INI
    and then click on “CHECK BOOTH PATH”
    that will remove any invalid entries.

    if you do have 2 valid entry but want to boot into 1. Click on that entry and choose SET AS DEFAULT (if it is not already) and set the timeout to like 3s

  3. mchlbk

    Wouldn’t using EasyBCD be easier?

  4. venkat

    Editing boot menu is always complicated ,second thing mentioned to uncheck time to display list of operating system is better option for beginners.

  5. The Geek

    @mchlbk

    I could be wrong, but EasyBCD only works when you have the Vista bootloader installed. When I tried to fire it up on XP alone it gave me an error.

  6. mchlbk

    You´re right – sorry!

  7. rswrc

    I like to edit boot.ini from commandline using bootcfg. I think it’s also worth an article here :-)

  8. LH

    It’s attrib -r to make a file writable. You don’t need to worry about the s and h.

  9. Zeta

    I had been taught a while back that clicking on the check all boot paths method was safer, removing the human error factor :D is this not the case? would be good to know if i run across this issue. Thanks

  10. The Geek

    @LH: Yeah, you’re exactly right, updated.

    To everybody else: yes… the boot paths method is much simpler. I seriously need more coffee today!

  11. Wayne

    Yall keep talking about more than one valid entry.
    I have four.

    XP Pro
    XP Pro ( Tuneup/backup )
    And “2″ for an ext. drive for backup.

    I would like to get rid of the first bootable backup ( third in the list ).

    Don’t know about “check all boot paths” and/or even if the ext. drive should be connected ( via USB )
    Uped the time to view the choose to 30 sec. in case I ever needed to chose the backup or
    Tuneup/backup

    What the hell is the tuneup/backup? Would that be Dell’s sys. recovery?

  12. Marvin

    Hi! I have the same problem here but with my case, i have windows xp pro installed and got amaze with vista, i failed to install the vista and now its giving me 4 options in boot option, first my windows xp, second a non working vista, third an option to rollback the installation and last another non working vista. i have already tried the, boot.ini because windows xp is only the working os as of this moment and have already tried reinstalling vista thats why i got 2 options for vista, but after the configuration of boot.ini still the four options are in the start up. I don’t know what to do. Pls help me….

  13. Marvin

    Follow up: i have already formatted the 2nd partion in my hard drive where i installed the vista.. Pls. help me…

  14. Anneau

    I have the exact same problem than you Marvin :s
    I have xp on my first partition, I tried to install vista on an external hard drive partition, didn’t work…
    now I have one entry for -Windows XP and one for nonworking -Vista
    I want to delete the vista entry but in my boot.ini is nothing to see about it.

    Please help :s

  15. clibou

    Great, worked like treat.

    I had a stuck Windows XP Sp3 installer

  16. Dan

    You made this way more complicated than it needs to be.
    All you need to do is run msconfig, click the boot.ini tab and then click check all boot paths.
    It’s infinitely easier.

  17. Dan

    Oops, nevermind should have read all the comments first, feel free to delete that one/not post this one.

  18. ccs1332

    I’ve already disabled the boot screen thingy, what I want to do is DELETE the whole backup OS. Plz help

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