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Tip Plug and Play support in Windows XP makes it more likely that the operating system can detect all that different hardware automatically. It also enables the user to connect or disconnect the computer to or from the docking station without powering everything down (hot-docking). To hot-dock a system that's powered up, just plug it into its docking station. To hot-undock a system, use the Start?Eject PC command, and then disconnect your notebook PC from the docking station.
Windows XP only supports hot-docking and -undocking on ACPI machines.
Warning Don't undock your machine when it's in standby or hibernate mode; you could lock up the machine and lose data.
You probably know that you can log on to Windows XP Professional with different user names, and that you can see different desktop settings, programs, menus, and so forth. These different sets of preferences go by the name user profiles.
Similarly, you can set up the operating system so that the computer hardware itself changes, depending on which hardware profile you activate at boot time.
Normally, desktop computers don't change hardware configurations frequently (if ever), but many mobile computers often do. For example, your notebook computer may have a drive bay that can hold either a diskette drive or a CD-ROM drive. Or you may want to use your notebook computer on an airplane or train sometimes, and in the office connected to a docking station at other times.
Although you could rely on Plug and Play to redetect all the hardware changes at boot time, doing so can add precious minutes to the startup process. Furthermore, some of your hardware may not be Plug and Play compliant. Finally, if Windows XP tries to detect hardware that Windows expects to see but that isn't present, the boot process slows to a crawl while Windows waits the maximum prescribed time for the device to respond before concluding that it's missing.
Windows XP's hardware profiles feature lets you predefine two, three, or any number of discrete hardware configurations to avoid these potential problems. (According to Microsoft, Windows is supposed to create the Docked and Undocked profiles automatically during setup if you use a laptop computer, but my experience is that that doesn't always happen.) Lab 9-2 presents the technique for creating a new hardware profile.
Lab 9-2 : Creating a New Hardware Profile
1. Choose Start?Control Panel.
2. Double-click the System icon.
(I'm presuming you've set the control panel for classic view instead of category view.)
3. Click the Hardware tab of the System control panel.
4. Click the Hardware Profiles button to display the dialog box shown in Figure 9-4.
Figure 9-4: Create a new hardware profile here.
On this portable PC, Windows XP created the 'Profile 1 (Current)' profile automatically during setup.
5. Highlight (that is, click) a profile in the Available Hardware Profiles list.
6. Click the Copy button for a new profile based on the existing one.
7. Name the new profile in the Copy Profile dialog box and click OK.
8. Click OK twice to close all open dialog boxes.
How does Windows XP choose a hardware configuration at startup? You set the options in the Hardware Profiles dialog box: Either you make Windows wait for you to choose from the list, or you let Windows pick the top profile in the list after a fixed delay period. Change the relative position of any listed profile by selecting it and moving it with the arrow keys.
After you boot to a hardware profile, you can use the System control panel's Device Manager tab to navigate through the hardware tree on a device-by-device basis, and specify which hardware configurations any given device should belong to (see Figure 9-5). The Registry stores all hardware profile information.
Figure 9-5: Disable a device in the current profile or in all profiles.
Remember If you disable a device by using Device Manager, the driver remains on the local hard disk and is available for use in other hardware profiles. Disabling a device renders it inactive, prevents the Registry from loading the driver at startup, and frees the resources (interrupt, memory, and so on) that the device was using. However, if you uninstall a device, Windows XP deletes the driver files and the device is not available for use in other hardware profiles.
Instant Answer Disable devices in the appropriate hardware profile to save power. For example, if you're on the road, you can create a 'road' profile in which you disable the PC Card Ethernet adapter. You won't need it, so why run down your battery feeding it power?
I'll end this discussion with a side note on user profiles. I cover these in Chapter 12 in more detail; suffice it to say here that user profiles contain all your personal preferences and some or all your personal data files. User profiles can follow you around a network, a feature called roaming profiles. Microsoft recommends against using roaming user profiles for laptop users who often use dial-up connections to link to the corporate LAN or WAN. The reason is that dial-up connections are slow and get bogged down when the network updates your user profile data. So, improve performance for mobile users by not using roaming profiles, or a related feature called folder redirection (which maps folders like My Documents to a network share).