Hack2.Change the Picture That Appears on the XP Startup Screen


Hack 2. Change the Picture That Appears on the XP Startup Screen

You're not stuck with XP's default splash logo on the startup screen; use any picture or logo of your choosing.

One of the nice things about XP is how malleable it is. Don't like the way it looks? No problem; change it. Take my splash screen, please!

The techniques in this hack work only with versions of XP before SP2. If you have SP2, they won't work, and they could harm your system. If you have SP2 and want to change your boot screen, your best bet is to use downloadable software, such as Style XP from Tgtsoft at http://www.tgtsoft.com/download.php.


Many people, myself included, would prefer to see a more interesting splash screen (also called the startup screen) than the default gives you on startup. You can change your splash screen to any of hundreds that have been created, or make one of your ownfor example, with your picture or company logo on it.

To choose from already created splash screens, go to http://www.themexp.org and click Boot Screens. You'll find more than 1,000 of them, organized by categories such as Sports, TV/Movies, and so on. I live in wintry but civilized New England, and during the winter I like to imagine myself in a far wilder place, so I use a picture of wolves in the wilds of Alaska for my splash screen. You can see it pictured in Figure 1-2. Nice way to greet the new day, don't you think?

Figure 1-2. My startup screen, which lets me imagine myself in the wilds of Alaska


Once you've found the image you want to use as your splash screen, download it. It will be downloaded as a .zip file. I create a general folder for all my boot screen files, called C:\Bootscreens, and then for each boot screen I download I create a new folderin this instance, C:\Bootscreens\Wild.

It's possible that something will go wrong with your new boot screen, so before making the change, create a system restore point by choosing Control Panel Performance and Maintenance System Restore and following the instructions. If something goes wrong, you can revert to that restore point.


Unzip the contents of the .zip file into the folder. There will be one or more files, including ReadMe files. The boot screen itself, however, will be named ntoskrnl.exe. If you have XP Service Pack 1 installed, you might have to use a different file, named ntoskrnlSP1.exe, which might also be in the downloaded .zip file. Check the documentation of the file you download to make sure. If you're not sure if you have Service Pack 1 installed, it's easy to find out. Right-click My Computer and choose Properties General. Your version of the operating system will be displayed. If you have Service Pack 1, it will say so on that screen.

The ntoskrnl.exe file is an executable file that contains the XP boot screen. During the boot process, XP executes this file, found in C:\Windows\System32, which in turn displays the boot screen graphic. So, to change your boot screen, replace your existing ntoskrnl.exe file with the one you just downloaded. But wait: there's more.

Never download and use a boot screen that is packaged inside a .exe file rather than a .zip file, and that you install by running an installation program. Always use .zip files and install the boot screens manually, instead of using an installation program. Many boot screen installation programs that change your boot screen contain spyware that they install on your PC without telling you, so stay away from them. For details about how to detect and kill spyware, see [Hack #34] .


You might think that all you have to do is copy the new ntoskrnl.exe over the existing one and then restart your computer for the changes to take effect. That's not quite the case, though. First you have to get around a feature of Windows XP that protects system files from being overwritten. Windows File Protection automatically replaces certain files with the original XP version of the file if they've been replaced, and ntoskrnl.exe is one of those files. However, if you make the change in Safe Mode, Windows File Protection won't kick in and you can safely copy the file.

Windows File Protection protects many other files, not just ntoskrnl.exe. Also included are .dll, .exe, .fon, .ocx, .sys, .tff, and, depending on your system, other file types such as .ax, .cpl, .cpx, .dll, .exe, .inf, .rsp, and .tlb.


Reboot your PC and press F8 immediately to get into Safe Mode. Now go to the C:\Windows\System32 folder and find the ntoskrnl.exe file. Copy it to another folder or rename it as a backup so that you can revert to it when you no longer want to use your new boot screen, or if something goes wrong when you install the new screen. Now copy the new ntoskrnl.exe file into C:\Windows\System32. (If you have to use the ntoskrnlSP1.exe file, rename it to ntoskrnl.exe first, and then copy it over.)

Reboot your computer again but don't go into Safe Mode this time. Now your new splash screen will appear every time you start your PC. To revert to your old splash screen, repeat the steps, copying your original ntoskrnl.exe file over your new one.

1.3.1. Choose from Multiple Splash Screens on Startup

Depending on my mood, I might not want to be greeted by huskies every morning. There are times when I want to be greeted by the normal startup screen, and other times when I want to see Andy Warhol's famous painting of Marilyn Monroe, or Al Pacino from the movie Scarface, which are all available from http://www.themexp.org. So, I've made a startup menu that lets me choose which graphic should be my startup screen.

To create a startup menu, first download all the screens you want to use. Then rename the ntoskrnl.exe or ntoskrnlSP1.exe of each so that the filename describes the screenfor example, ntospacino.exe, ntosmonroe.exe, and ntosspongebob.exe. Copy them into C:\Windows\System32. Don't touch the existing ntoskrnl.exe file there; you'll keep that as one of your options. Because you're not changing that file, you don't have to boot into Safe Mode to make any of these changes.

Following the instructions in [Hack #1], create a multiboot screen by editing your boot.ini file. In the [operating systems] section of the boot.ini file, create a new entry for each screen from which you want to choose. Copy the existing primary XP entry and append /kernel=newbootscreenfilename.exe to the end of it, where newbootscreenfilename.exe is the filename of the boot screen you want to use for that entry. Also edit the description so that it describes the boot screen. For example, if the primary entry is:

multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home  Edition" /fastdetect

you would create this entry for the SpongeBob startup screen:

multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="SpongeBob Startup Screen" / fastdetect /kernel=ntosspongebob.exe

Create as many entries as you want in the [boot loader] section. My boot.ini file looks like this:

[operating systems] multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home  Edition" /fastdetect multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="SpongeBob Startup Screen" / fastdetect /kernel=ntosspongebob.exe multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Pacino Startup Screen" / fastdetect /kernel=ntospacino.exe multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Marilyn Monroe Startup Screen"  /fastdetect /kernel=ntosmonroe.exe

Whenever you start up XP now, you'll be able to choose from your normal startup screen or any of the others you've put on the menu. If you have a laptop, for example, you might set up a menu that lets you choose a businesslike startup screen at work and a more entertaining one at home.

1.3.2. Build a Startup Screen from Any Graphic

So far, this hack has shown you how to use a startup screen that someone else built. But you're not limited to that; you can turn any graphic into a startup screen using BootXP (downloadable from http://www.bootxp.net). It's shareware and free to try, but it costs $7.95 if you decide to keep using it.

The program will convert graphics from many different formats to a boot screen graphic, then use it as your boot screen, or build a boot menu for you so that you can choose from multiple boot screens. That way, you don't have to edit the boot.ini file yourself.

It's a surprisingly simple program to use. Select a graphic that you want to use as a boot screen, and then click a button to convert it to the 640 480-pixel, 16-color bitmap startup screen standard. Preview the graphic, and if it's what you want, tell the program to set it as your boot screen. The program provides a variety of options, including choosing a different progress bar that alerts you that XP is loading, restoring your original startup screen, or randomizing your boot screen so that it randomly selects one you've created each time you boot. You can also use the program to download already created startup screens from http://www.bootxp.net.

1.3.3. See Also

  • [Hack #17]



    Windows XP Hacks
    Windows XP Hacks, Second Edition
    ISBN: 0596009186
    EAN: 2147483647
    Year: 2003
    Pages: 191

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