Editing Windows 2000 Pro: The Boot Up Screen


Feb 1, 2002


The Bottom Line This review covers the technique involved in changing the default boot-up screen from Win 2000 Pro to some of your own choice.

This will be a fairly one dimensional review, and I’ll be covering complex areas and techniques involved in changing the boot up screen for Windows 2000 (and Professional) system users. And I hope to make it as least complex as it can be In the most detail as possible.
The first stage is to understand the boot up screen. As you may know as a Win 2000 user, the boot up screen has an animation and a loader. This screen is controlled by a complex .exe file however the background is simply a 16 colour palette Bitmap image with a resolution of 640x480.

I first tried this with an image of my own, and to be honest it worked but not at all as I planned. The first time was where I had a white/grey screen but not the image – I had not realised it was to be in 16 colour setting, please note this is totally different to 16 bit (here you have a palette of roughly 65,536 colours). A palette is one of the first things a picture is saved with, it can be from black/white (1 bit per pixel) to 16 colour (four bits per pixel) to 256 colours (eight bits per pixel) and up to 24bit (24 bits per pixel giving up to 16,777,216 shades per pixel). And of course for a boot screen 16 colours is adequate.
The second attempt I had was more successful, but I had not positioned the animated areas properly, and I got a strange effect where the colours flickered about the screen vertically. I later tried another persons picture and it worked fine.


So, how to do it?


Well, it isn’t quite as straight forward as above says. The first time I tried it I used a web document to help me, it was describing the method for first release, I unknowingly had the second and it didn’t work. However after a number of catch ups on some forums I had found a simpler method for the process. It involves reaching the boot.ini file which loads up just before the operating system this when activated will allow users to switch between operating systems or in this case boot up screens.

The plan isn’t finished yet.

The next step involves actually accompanying a string into the boot file, and accompanying this string with a file held into the System32 folder under WinNt in C:\. The file can be created from using another similar file which is the one used to load the Win 2000 logo screen we all see everyday. We’ll need no real program to get into the boot.ini file, we can use NotePad for this, but we will need to access the Bitmap area of the default load up screen.

Let’s recap:

* Any such image we want to use must be 640x480 and in 16 colour bitmap (*.bmp) mode
* We need a string attached to the Boot.ini file which we can do last.
* We need a hacking program that can access the files such as .exe from within the System32 folder.

Let’s begin:

So, the very first thing I expect you to do is to do some backing up – the files won’t be very large – no more than a Megabyte – and it never hurts to have two back up copies and have them in a safe Directory.
The first file to back up is that boot-up screen .exe file I mentioned earlier, it is called “NTOSKRNL.EXE”. The directory is: [please note your may differ, I am using Win 2000 Pro]

C:\WinNt\System32\NTOSKRNL.EXE

You should open the folder and copy the file to another location or drive, you can copy again so you have two. This file will be our “base” for editing the background. There is only a bitmap area we need to touch, however this exe file also has a number of Window’s 2000 logos which you might wish to see, there are Family, Network, Server all kinds!

The next stage is to download the Program “Resource Hacker”. It’s a pretty basic file, which will load .exe files and a number of others like .dll files. If you wish you can get it from this site:

http://delphi.icm.edu.pl/ftp/tools/ResHack.zip
{It’s the one I use so it’s safe, but your better off scanning it for viruses first!}

This program is particularly cool for editing programs like paint, you can change the Paint brush tool box icons to whatever you want, and you can do it in paint. They are all based upon bitmap files.

Now, once you have the file and it is open (no install required) you can open the above file, NTOSKRNL.EXE from the system directory, or to be safe from the back up directory. Once open go to file and Save As, and save it under your C:\ WinNt\System32\ directory as “NTOSCHK.EXE” notice the different names? Please note, saving them as the same name would be a waste of time. The Win2000 file system is unbelievably safe, it almost always will change the original file you would overwrite back to what it was! This is known as file protection, in my attempt with the first release web page I would have to go into the registry and turn off file protection, which is a might bit risky and not many like it off – it can be venerable to Trojan horse or other such disease in computers. In the first version this would work, but for some reason the second it doesn’t work. In any case you’re better of rejecting the file protection “off” scheme and using this simpler option.

Now you will now have a complete identical file to the one called NTOSKRNL.EXE that will still be there. You can now see the boot up screen. The software, I’ll describe for you. On the left is a number of directories in the file, and on the right is what is represented by the data within them. This can be a picture for example. Go to the directory Bitmap then the subdirectory 1. Here will be a single image and you may recognise it as the Win 2000 boot screen. Now, replacing this image is easy, but getting the image itself correct, is a bit harder. For most, a downloaded image from the net will guarantee success, and I would advise you do this first. If you do wish to make you own, I urge you base it on a working image, and simply cut out the parts you don’t want. If your in the same file and editing you’ll be restricted to the same colours loaded in the palette, so start a new image and make it a 16 colour image, and any pasted will (most image editors) change colour to the nearest.

For this example I’m wanting to get a menu at boot which lists all the boot-screens, and will always load the same operating system. We can do this by altering the Boot.ini file. The boot file contains information about partitions or alternative systems, so you can load ME for the kids or Professional for yourself for example from the boot screen. Our boot-picture works in the same way. If you have a partition, then you will have to be wary of this. If you open the boot file in notepad it should read this (no partition/second operating system).

----------
[boot loader]
timeout=10
default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINNT
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINNT="Windows 2000 Professional" /fastdetect


----------

Before altering anything, you must check that the boot file will load, we do this by entering the Environment settings. In System Properties in control panel, and under Advanced, click on the Environment Variables tab, and this will open another panel. In this panel will be a drop box which holds the information related to the boot.ini file. So whatever you enter in the boot file will effectively enter the drop box. Please click on the “Display List of operating systems check box and select a time period – this will load the default OS verified in the drop box.
The drop box should say:

"Windows 2000 Professional" /fastdetect

The reason for doing the above is to check that it will load the boot file.

Now, we can effectively alter the boot screen load up. In the boot file, enter this to the line below the last in the quote above.

----------

multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINNT="Cars" /fastdetect /kernel=NTOSCHK.EXE

multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINNT="The Matrix?" /fastdetect /kernel=NTOSCHK1.EXE

multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINNT="The Mummy" /fastdetect /kernel=NTOSCHK2.EXE

multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINNT="Star Wars" /fastdetect /kernel=NTOSCHK3.EXE

multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINNT="Starship Trooper" /fastdetect /kernel=
NTOSCHK4.EXE



----------[you won’t need to miss lines, I did just so it’s easier to read]

The above shows five boot-screens and I have named each one for what picture they will represent. At the this time I haven’t any idea to how many you can have, potentially it will go as far as the screen size will allow, possibly further. For however many files you are willing to create you'll have to create the same line but with a higher number for each file. If its your first time I suggest you create a file and save it as a second file so that you know the menu works ok. if you do one file then you'll need to remove the other lines and you will have two options on boot.

Now, notice the “/kernel=NTOSCHK.EXE” file name added onto the line. This was the new file we were creating for the altered NTOSKRNL.EXE file from the System32 file. Effectively you can name each one with a number value, in this example it goes from NTOSCHK3.EXE to NTOSCHK4.EXE, you can do this. The extension line is quite a strange one, and why it refers to the background of the boot up is beyond what I know.

So, let’s recap. We begun to create files with alternative images, you can download many off the web, and now we’ve made five files, which can be selected from boot-up.

However, the images downloaded from the web are usually Jpg, and these will fumble the 16 colours they may or may not have been created as. So, to take them back you’ll need a good picture editor. MS Paint will work ok, but in most cases the results are tatty. I’ve used Paint Shop Pro 5 effectively, which offers three levels of transfer and a number of options.
In order to create your own, i.e. a family photo, then I’d really recommend you find a website, or program to help you. I haven’t found any information on how to create the files. All I have come up with is that you need a gradient texture the right height and width so that the .exe file can scroll it. But I’m still not sure.

So lets summarize what you’ll need to do in order:

1. Create back ups of the vital files
2. Download the Resource Hacker program (free)
3. Create a second file in the system32 folder under a different name
4. Download a special background and apply it to the new file
5. Edit the environment variables so to see a boot-up selection screen
6. Edit the Boot.ini file
7. Reboot and test each file

On a “how easy is it?” scale I would rate it 3/5.

FAQ's please comment.

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