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.

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

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

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.

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)

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.

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:

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.

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.


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

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Lowell is the founder and CEO of How-To Geek. He’s been running the show since creating the site back in 2006. Over the last decade, Lowell has personally written more than 1000 articles which have been viewed by over 250 million people. Prior to starting How-To Geek, Lowell spent 15 years working in IT doing consulting, cybersecurity, database management, and programming work.
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