Recently I got a report from a customer that their computer had been infected by a virus. The description of the problem was the computer was running slow, it can’t save any documents because the hard drive is nearly full although there aren’t that many files, and the Internet Explorer font is weird. The first thing that I always do before anything is run MSCONFIG (System Configuration Utility) and check the startup entries there. It’s not the best tool to check for every programs that starts up with Windows, but it’s a basic built in one which is able to give a rough idea if the computer is infected by virus or not and should be present on all versions of Windows.
When I went to Start -> Run, and typed MSCONFIG into the box, I got the unexpected error message:
Windows cannot find ‘msconfig’. Make sure you typed the name correctly, and then try again. To search for a file, click the Start button, and then click Search.
When you get this kind of error. it’s usually a virus that is the culprit for removing msconfig, regedit, task manager, the Command Prompt and and a few other system commands from being accessed via the Run box. If you have a similar problem and have already checked for and removed any malware, here are a couple of possible solutions to get the MsConfig program back working again.
For Windows XP
First of all, you need to make sure that the MSCONFIG program is still present on your drive. Surprisingly, the odd thing about MSConfig.exe is it’s not located in either of the 2 most obvious directories of C:\Windows or C:\Windows\System32 on Windows XP, which is where the other system utilities are found.
In Windows XP MSConfig.exe is stored in the following location:
Go to C:\Windows\PCHealth\HelpCtr\Binaries\ and check if the MSConfig.exe file is there or not. If it’s not there, you can copy it from another computer to the Binaries folder or if you only have a Windows XP CD, open a command prompt window, insert your XP CD into the drive and enter the following command: (assuming D is your CD drive and C is where your Windows is installed)
EXPAND -R D:\I386\MSCONFIG.EX_ C:\WINDOWS\PCHEALTH\HELPCTR\BINARIES
That should restore MSConfig.exe to your Windows install. If you do not have access to another computer or the XP installation CD, you can download MSConfig.exe from below.
If the executable is already there and you still can’t launch MSCONFIG from the Run command, then the reference to the path within the registry may be wrong. Check this location in the registry:
In the right pane, next to Default, it should show:
If the the path is not correct, simply change it to what is shown above. If you are not familiar in editing the Windows registry, you can just download and run this registry fix file.
Once you have both MSConfig.exe file in your computer and the registry path is set correctly, you shouldn’t have problems running msconfig command from Run.
In addition to the fix above, there’s a very simple little tool called Emergency Utilities Copier that is able to create usable copies of REGEDIT, MSCONFIG and Task Manager from Doug Knox’s website. This small VB 6 utility will create a usable backup copy of Taskmgr.exe, MSConfig.exe and Regedit.EXE in a new folder, called C:\EmergencyUtils. The new copies will be named Copy_of_Taskmgr.exe, Copy_of_MSConfig.exe and Copy_of_Regedit.com.
Because of the critical nature of these files in repairing and diagnosing system problems, they are usually a priority target for malware which will try to disable access to them, or remove the files completely. Having the files backed up in an alternate location either by this program or doing it yourself can prove quite useful because they can easily be copied back to their respective folders within seconds.
For Windows Vista and 7
In Windows Vista and 7 MSConfig.exe is located in the more common system location you might be expecting:
If you can’t find it in the System32 folder, a search in the C:\Windows\WinSXS folder should provide a backup MSConfig.exe which you can copy back over to the System32 folder. If it’s not there either, you will either have to extract it from a Windows install DVD, or you can download the MSConfig.exe file for Windows Vista or 7 from the links below.
If you want to get the file from your Windows install DVD, using an archiver such as 7-Zip, go to the Sources folder on the disc and open the Install.wim file. Inside are some numbered folders, simply go into any one of them and navigate to Windows\System32 and extract the MSConfig.exe to your System32 folder. If you have a recovery image or partition, there should also be a wim file which likely holds a copy of the file.
As MSConfig.exe in Vista and 7 is already located in the default system path, there isn’t a possible bad entry for it in the registry like there is in XP.