Create and manage hardware profiles

Hardware profiles, which are set by a systems administrator, describe which pieces of hardware are enabled or disabled when a system is booted under a given profile. They eliminate the process of Windows having to redetect hardware. This tip will show you how to create and manage hardware profiles.

Hardware profiles, whjich are set by a systems administrator, describe which pieces of hardware are enabled or disabled when a system is booted under a given profile.

Administrators often need a way to implement different device configurations. They can do this by enabling and disabling devices, but this can be a tedious and time-consuming process. A quicker way of implementing multiple device configurations is through the use of hardware profiles.

Using hardware profiles allows an admin to create different device configurations and load them quickly by selecting the appropriate profile during OS startup. Hardware profiles are mostly used with mobile workstations and servers. For instance, on a portable computer with a Plug and Play-compatible docking station, two profiles will be created and loaded automatically as needed: a docked profile for when the computer is connected to the network, and an undocked profile for when the computer is disconnected from the docking station.

An admin can also create hardware profiles for different device configurations. For example, an admin could have a standard profile that includes the standard devices for internal RAID controllers and drive arrays and a test profile that includes external Fiber Channel storage devices. They could then test out the FC storage devices using the second profile and switch back to the standard device set when the testing is finished.

To create and manage hardware profiles:

  1. Open System utility from Control Panel.
  2. In the System utility, select the Hardware tab, then click Hardware Profiles.
  3. This opens the dialog box in which the active profile (the one currently being used) is listed as (Current).
  4. The default profile highlighted at startup is determined by the profile's position in the Available Hardware Profiles list.
  5. To set a profile as the default, select it, then click the up arrow until the profile is at the top of the list.

You can also determine how long the system displays the hardware profile menu at startup. If you don't want the hardware profile menu to be displayed, set a wait of 0 seconds.

Configuring multiple hardware profiles

If you need to work with different hardware profiles, you'll want to simplify the creation of new hardware profiles. To do so, use a copy of an existing profile and then enable or disable devices as necessary. To create and use a new profile:

  1. In Control Panel, double-click System to start the System utility.
  2. Select the Hardware tab. Click Hardware Profile.
  3. In the Available Hardware Profiles list, select the profile you want to use as a template for the new profile. Click Copy.
  4. In the Copy Profile dialog box, enter a name for the profile, then click OK.
  5. Select the new profile, and then click Properties. For non-mobile hardware, be sure that the 'This Is A Portable Computer' option is not selected. For all computers, select 'Always Include This Profile' As An Option When Windows Starts. Click OK.
  6. To create other profiles, repeat steps 3-5. Then set the hardware profile selection options. In most cases, you'll want Windows to select a profile automatically after a 3- to 5-second delay. That way if you don't select a profile, the computer will start quickly using the default profile.
  7. Restart the computer, then choose the profile you want to work with. Start Device Manager, then access the Properties dialog boxes for each device you want to enable or disable in turn. In the General tab, use the Device Usage settings as follows:
    • Use This Device (Enable) —Choose this option for any device that you want to make available for the current profile.
    • Do Not Use This Device In The Current Hardware Profile (Disable) —Choose this option for any device that should be disabled in the current profile.
    • Do Not Use This Device In Any Hardware Profiles (Disable) —Choose this option for any device that should be disabled regardless of which profile is used.

To configure devices for additional profiles, repeat Step 7.

Microsoft's own documentation on this feature in XP has more detail.

Windows Vista doesn't seem to support the profiles feature anymore, but that may only be because the user interface for it has been removed, not because the feature has been completely eliminated. It's possible to set a given service to load or not load for a particular profile, but those profiles appear to be created and managed automatically.

About the author: Rahul Shah currently works at a software firm in India, where he is a systems administrator maintaining Windows servers. He has also worked for various software firms in testing and analytics, and also has experiences deploying client/server applications in different Windows configurations.

More information on this topic:

  • Tip: Is there a Group Policy add-in to manage profiles
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