Hardware Profiles in XP

Before you start

Objectives: learn what is Hardware Profile and how to create and configure new Hardware Profiles.

Prerequisites: no prerequisites.

Key terms: hardware, device, profile, boot, menu, manager, system

Hardware Profile

A hardware profile is a set of instructions that tells Windows which devices to start when we power on our computer. Most common usage is on laptop computers. Usually, portable computers are used in a variety of locations and hardware profiles let us change which devices our computer uses when we move it from location to location. When we first install Windows XP, a hardware profile named Profile 1 is created. By default, every device that is installed on our computer is enabled in the Profile 1 hardware profile. For laptop computers, the default profile is named Docked Profile or Undocked Profile. Windows XP will automatically detect Docked and Undocked states, and create two different profiles for us to be able to use.

If there is more than one hardware profile on our computer, we can designate a default profile that is used every time we start our computer. Windows can also prompt us for which profile to use when we start our computer. After we create a hardware profile, we can use Device Manager to disable and enable devices that are in that particular profile. When we disable a device in a hardware profile, the device drivers for the device are not loaded when we start our computer with that profile. For example, if we have a laptop computer, we can create one profile for when the laptop is connected to the company network and another profile for when the laptop is at another location. This allows us to control which devices we want to use in particular situations.

To create a custom hardware profile, we have to go to the Hardware Profile Manager. To create new hardware profile, we have to copy an existing profile. Once we copy an existing profile, we have to reboot our computer so we can select our new hardware profile during boot up. Once we boot up using new hardware profile, we will go to the Device Manager where we have to disable or enable the devices for the current profile. From that point on, every time we reboot we will have a choice of which Hardware Profile we want to utilize. This makes it very easy to utilize many different types of devices without always using Device Manager to configure them.

We also have the ability to organize which profiles get listed first on the Hardware Profile menu. In our Hardware Profile Manager we have little arrow buttons on the side of the screen that allow us to move profiles up and down on the list. The first profile on the list becomes the default profile. In addition to that, we can also set the system timer which is by default set to 30 seconds. If we don’t make a selection during that time, Windows will boot up using default hardware profile. This setting is editable, and many users like to adjust this system timer so that they don’t see hardware profile menu for such a long time during boot up process. Some users like to hide the boot menu all together. To do that, we have to set the system timer to 0 (zero). In this case, if we need to have the Hardware Profile menu brought up, all we need to do is press the space bar during the boot process which will bring the Hardware Profile menu. Then we can make our selection.

We can also hide the Profile items out of the menu if we desire. This makes the menu a little easier to see. In order to do that we have to choose to include particular profiles by checking the ‘Always include this profile as an option when Windows starts’ check box. By checking that option that particular profile will always be available on the hardware profile menu. If we remove the check, we can hide that particular profile. Once again, by pressing the space bar we will be able to see all options, so we can make the proper choice.

Example Configuration

We must be logged on as an Administrator or a member of the Administrators group to complete this procedure. If the computer is connected to a network, network policy settings may also prevent us from completing this procedure. Let’s go to the Start Menu, right-click My Computer and select Properties to open System properties (we can also open System properties from the Control Panel). Now, go to the Hardware tab and click ‘Hardware Profiles‘ button. This following screen appears:

Hardware Profiles

Image 213.1 – Hardware Profiles

To create a new hardware profile, we will simply copy an existing profile. Notice that ‘Profile 1’ is currently selected so we will click the Copy button and give the copied profile a new name. In this case the name will be ‘Work’. We will click OK and now we want to rename ‘Profile 1’ profile. To do that, we have to select ‘Profile 1’ and click on the Rename button. In this case we will rename it to ‘Home’.

New Profile

Image 213.2 – New Profile

If the computer is a laptop computer, we can easily identify the ‘docked’ or ‘undocked’ state of the computer by editing the profile properties. To do that, select some profile and then click on the Properties button. First, we have to check the ‘This is a portable computer’ option. Now, we can select ‘The computer is undocked’ or ‘The computer is docked’ option. In this case, for Work profile, we will select the ‘The computer is undocked’ because at work, we don’t use docking station.

Portable Computer Options

Image 213.3 – Portable Computer Options

We can also use Device Manager to specifically modify the hardware configuration of particular profile. When we open Device Manager, we are editing the current hardware profile. If we want to use Device Manager to edit some other profile, we need to reboot our computer and select the profile we want to manage.

Hardware Profiles Selection

Image 213.4 – Hardware Profiles Selection

In this case, we have selected our new hardware profile, the Work profile. Now, let’s open Device Manager to edit our new profile. In this example we will disable the COM ports because we don’t use serial devices at work. To do that, right-click the Communication Port (there are two of them in our example), open its properties and then under ‘Device usage’ select ‘Do not use this device in the current hardware profile (disabled)’ option.

COM Device Usage

Image 213.5 – COM Device Usage

Let’s go back to Hardware Profiles to make boot configuration choices. Under ‘Available hardware profiles’ we can move the profile to the top to make it the default profile selected during boot up. If the computer is at the office more than it is at home, we should move the Work profile to the top to make it the default boot profile. Notice that the Work profile is now at the top of the list which means that it is the default profile.

Default Hardware Profile

Image 213.6 – Default Hardware Profile

Under ‘Hardware profiles selection’ we can configure our system to wait until a hardware profile has been selected automatically. The default value is 30 seconds which means that if we don’t make a choice during that time, the system will automatically boot after 30 seconds using the profile that is first on the list. If we want to skip the choice screen, we can change the wait period to zero seconds.


A hardware profile is a set of instructions that tells Windows which devices to start when we power on our computer. To create new hardware profile we have to copy an existing profile.