When troubleshooting a Windows XP startup problem, this is probably a frequent course of action: Press [F8], and choose one of the special troubleshooting startup options, which include three Safe Mode options and the Last Known Good Configuration option.

Of course, these are all great features. But what if you really just want to see what occurs during a normal startup? To monitor what's going on behind the scenes during a normal bootup, you can temporarily disable Windows XP's splash screen.

You can accomplish this by adding a little-used switch to the Boot.ini file. Follow these steps:

1. Go to the Start menu, and right-click My Computer.

2. Select Properties from the shortcut menu.

3. In the resulting System Properties dialog box, select the Advanced tab.

4. In the Startup And Recovery section, click the Settings button.

5. In the resulting Startup And Recovery dialog box, click the Edit button in the System Startup section.

6. When the Boot.ini file opens in Notepad, add the /SOS switch to the line that ends with the /fastdetect switch.

7. Save the file, close Notepad, click OK twice to close the dialog boxes, and restart the system.

To restore the splash screen, follow the same directions, and remove the /SOS switch.