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Windows XP repair


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#1
danielray

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When I boot up my laptop, I get the following error message:

'Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM'
'You can attempt to repair this file by starting Windows Setup using the original Setup CD-ROM.'
'Select r at the first screen to start repair.'

This laptop did not come with a Windows CD, instead it came with a recovery partition. Windows and all the preinstalled software come loaded on a hidden (recovery) partition. The recovery partition can be accessed at boot up, and restores the hard disk to the original factory condition. If I use the recovery method provided by the OEM, I will destroy the data that is on my system, so I'm trying to figure out how to repair the existing partition using a Windows CD. I do have access to a Windows XP Install CD from my desktop computer, so I tried using it, and here's what happened:

I booted from the Windows XP CD
The Windows Setup screen came up and gave me three options
- to setup XP, press enter
- to repair a XP installation using Recovery Console, press 'r'
- to quit press F3
So I pressed 'r'
A DOS like screen came up with following:
Microsoft Windows XP Recovery Console
The recovery console provides system repair...
It also appeared to identify the a Windows partition listed it as follows:
1: C:\Windows
and asked ' which windows installation would you like to log onto:'
So I entered '1'
It then came back with a DOS prompt: 'C:\WINDOWS>'
That's it...no additional repair instructions were provided...so I searched the forums and found the following repair procedure and decided to try it instead:

http://www.geekstogo...ws-XP-t138.html

I powered off the machine and rebooted, this time following the instructions from the above g2go tip
Instead of entering 'r' at the windows setup screen, the tip above instructed me to press 'enter', which I did
At the license agreement screen, i pressed 'F8'
The next setup screen I got differed slightly from the screen shot in the tip, my setup screen had the following:
The following list shows the existing partitions and unpartitioned space on this computer
Use the up and down arrow keys to select an item in the list
To setup Windows XP on the selected item, press ENTER
To create a partition in the unpartitioned space, press C
To delete the selected partition, press D
45781MB Disk 0 at Id 0 on bus 0 on atapi [MBR}
C: Partition1 [Unknown] 44083MB (44082 MB free)
E: Partition2 (Inactive (OS/2 Boot Man 1691MB (836MB free)
Unpartitioned space 7MB
The setup menu did not offer me the option to repair any of the above, as was described in the tip
If I hit enter, it takes me to the format options screen, at which point i ESCed out

The first procedure I tried, which ended with a DOS prompt, allowed me to see the contents of the drive. I could see the Windows file system and my data directories. If could pull my data off easily from here, I'd just assume go back and let the recovery program do its thing and install a fresh copy of the OS. But I found out that the copy function would not let me copy to removeable media.

So, I'm confused and in need of help. Is there any suggestions on how to repair the Windows XP operating system on this laptop?
I just want to get my unbacked up data off this system--couple gigs of pics. So appreciate any help to either repair the partition or to leverage the limited DOS command structure (if possible) to move the data off the system.

Thanks
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#2
dsenette

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C: Partition1 [Unknown] 44083MB (44082 MB free)

that means that the setup procedure didn't detect windows on your drive which is SOMEWHAT normal in your situation

try this:

Part one
In part one, you start the Recovery Console, create a temporary folder, back up the existing registry files to a new location, delete the registry files at their existing location, and then copy the registry files from the repair folder to the System32\Config folder. When you have finished this procedure, a registry is created that you can use to start Windows XP. This registry was created and saved during the initial setup of Windows XP. Therefore any changes and settings that occurred after the Setup program was finished are lost.

To complete part one, follow these steps:
1. Insert the Windows XP startup disk into the floppy disk drive, or insert the Windows XP CD-ROM into the CD-ROM drive, and then restart the computer.
Click to select any options that are required to start the computer from the CD-ROM drive if you are prompted to do so.
2. When the "Welcome to Setup" screen appears, press R to start the Recovery Console.
3. If you have a dual-boot or multiple-boot computer, select the installation that you want to access from the Recovery Console.
4. When you are prompted to do so, type the Administrator password. If the administrator password is blank, just press ENTER.
5. At the Recovery Console command prompt, type the following lines, pressing ENTER after you type each line:

md tmp
copy c:\windows\system32\config\system c:\windows\tmp\system.bak
copy c:\windows\system32\config\software c:\windows\tmp\software.bak
copy c:\windows\system32\config\sam c:\windows\tmp\sam.bak
copy c:\windows\system32\config\security c:\windows\tmp\security.bak
copy c:\windows\system32\config\default c:\windows\tmp\default.bak

delete c:\windows\system32\config\system
delete c:\windows\system32\config\software
delete c:\windows\system32\config\sam
delete c:\windows\system32\config\security
delete c:\windows\system32\config\default

copy c:\windows\repair\system c:\windows\system32\config\system
copy c:\windows\repair\software c:\windows\system32\config\software
copy c:\windows\repair\sam c:\windows\system32\config\sam
copy c:\windows\repair\security c:\windows\system32\config\security
copy c:\windows\repair\default c:\windows\system32\config\default

6. Type exit to quit Recovery Console. Your computer will restart.
Note This procedure assumes that Windows XP is installed to the C:\Windows folder. Make sure to change C:\Windows to the appropriate windows_folder if it is a different location.

If you have access to another computer, to save time, you can copy the text in step two, and then create a text file called "Regcopy1.txt" (for example). To create this file, run the following command when you start in Recovery Console:
batch regcopy1.txt
With the batch command in Recovery Console, you can process all the commands in a text file sequentially. When you use the batch command, you do not have to manually type as many commands.



Part two
To complete the procedure described in this section, you must be logged on as an administrator, or an administrative user (a user who has an account in the Administrators group). If you are using Windows XP Home Edition, you can log on as an administrative user. If you log on as an administrator, you must first start Windows XP Home Edition in Safe mode. To start the Windows XP Home Edition computer in Safe mode, follow these steps.

Note Print these instructions before you continue. You cannot view these instructions after you restart the computer in Safe Mode. If you use the NTFS file system, also print the instructions from Knowledge Base article KB309531. Step 7 contains a reference to the article.
To complete part two, follow these steps:

1. Click Start, click Shut Down (or click Turn Off Computer), click Restart, and then click OK (or click Restart).
2. Press the F8 key.

On a computer that is configured to start to multiple operating systems, you can press F8 when you see the Startup menu.

3. Use the arrow keys to select the appropriate Safe mode option, and then press ENTER.
4. If you have a dual-boot or multiple-boot system, use the arrow keys to select the installation that you want to access, and then press ENTER.

In part two, you copy the registry files from their backed up location by using System Restore. This folder is not available in Recovery Console and is generally not visible during typical usage. Before you start this procedure, you must change several settings to make the folder visible:

1. Start Windows Explorer.
2. On the Tools menu, click Folder options.
3. Click the View tab.
4. Under Hidden files and folders, click to select Show hidden files and folders, and then click to clear the Hide protected operating system files (Recommended) check box.
5. Click Yes when the dialog box that confirms that you want to display these files appears.
6. Double-click the drive where you installed Windows XP to display a list of the folders. If is important to click the correct drive.
7. Open the System Volume Information folder. This folder is unavailable and appears dimmed because it is set as a super-hidden folder.

Note This folder contains one or more _restore {GUID} folders such as "_restore{87BD3667-3246-476B-923F-F86E30B3E7F8}".

Note You may receive the following error message:
C:\System Volume Information is not accessible. Access is denied.
If you receive this message, see the following Microsoft Knowledge Base article to gain access to this folder and continue with the procedure:

309531
How to gain access to the System Volume Information folder


8. Open a folder that was not created at the current time. You may have to click Details on the View menu to see when these folders were created. There may be one or more folders starting with "RPx under this folder. These are restore points.
9. Open one of these folders to locate a Snapshot subfolder. The following path is an example of a folder path to the Snapshot folder:
C:\System Volume Information\_restore{D86480E3-73EF-47BC-A0EB-A81BE6EE3ED8}\RP1\Snapshot
10. From the Snapshot folder, copy the following files to the C:\Windows\Tmp folder:

_REGISTRY_USER_.DEFAULT
_REGISTRY_MACHINE_SECURITY
_REGISTRY_MACHINE_SOFTWARE
_REGISTRY_MACHINE_SYSTEM
_REGISTRY_MACHINE_SAM


11. Rename the files in the C:\Windows\Tmp folder as follows:

Rename _REGISTRY_USER_.DEFAULT to DEFAULT
Rename _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SECURITY to SECURITY
Rename _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SOFTWARE to SOFTWARE
Rename _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SYSTEM to SYSTEM
Rename _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SAM to SAM


These files are the backed up registry files from System Restore. Because you used the registry file that the Setup program created, this registry does not know that these restore points exist and are available. A new folder is created with a new GUID under System Volume Information and a restore point is created that includes a copy of the registry files that were copied during part one. Therefore, it is important not to use the most current folder, especially if the time stamp on the folder is the same as the current time.

The current system configuration is not aware of the previous restore points. You must have a previous copy of the registry from a previous restore point to make the previous restore points available again.

The registry files that were copied to the Tmp folder in the C:\Windows folder are moved to make sure that the files are available under Recovery Console. You must use these files to replace the registry files currently in the C:\Windows\System32\Config folder. By default, Recovery Console has limited folder access and cannot copy files from the System Volume folder.

Note The procedure described in this section assumes that you are running your computer with the FAT32 file system. For more information about how to access the System Volume Information Folder with the NTFS file system, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
309531 How to gain access to the System Volume Information folder


Part Three
In part three, you delete the existing registry files, and then copy the System Restore Registry files to the C:\Windows\System32\Config folder:

To complete part three, follow these steps:
1. Start Recovery Console.
2. At the command prompt, type the following lines, pressing ENTER after you type each line:

del c:\windows\system32\config\sam

del c:\windows\system32\config\security

del c:\windows\system32\config\software

del c:\windows\system32\config\default

del c:\windows\system32\config\system

copy c:\windows\tmp\software c:\windows\system32\config\software

copy c:\windows\tmp\system c:\windows\system32\config\system

copy c:\windows\tmp\sam c:\windows\system32\config\sam

copy c:\windows\tmp\security c:\windows\system32\config\security

copy c:\windows\tmp\default c:\windows\system32\config\default

Note Some of these command lines may be wrapped for readability.
3. Type exit to quit Recovery Console. Your computer restarts.
Note This procedure assumes that Windows XP is installed to the C:\Windows folder. Make sure to change C:\Windows to the appropriate windows_folder if it is a different location.

If you have access to another computer, to save time, you can copy the text in step two, and then create a text file called "Regcopy1.txt" (for example).


Part Four

To complete part four, follow these steps:

1. Click Start, and then click All Programs.
2. Click Accessories, and then click System Tools.
3. Click System Restore, and then click Restore to a previous RestorePoint.

http://support.micro...kb;en-us;307545

REFERENCES
For more information about using Recovery Console, click the following article numbers to view the articles in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
307654 How to install and use the Recovery Console in Windows XP
216417 How to install the Windows XP Recovery Console
240831 How to copy files from Recovery Console to removable media
314058 Description of the Windows XP Recovery Console For more information about System Restore, click the following article numbers to view the articles in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
306084 How to restore the operating system to a previous state in Windows XP
261716 System Restore removes files during a restore procedure
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#3
danielray

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Thanks for coming to the rescue dsenette.

I started as you suggested:

md tmp
copy c:\windows\system32\config\system c:\windows\tmp\system.bak
copy c:\windows\system32\config\software c:\windows\tmp\software.bak
copy c:\windows\system32\config\sam c:\windows\tmp\sam.bak
copy c:\windows\system32\config\security c:\windows\tmp\security.bak
copy c:\windows\system32\config\default c:\windows\tmp\default.bak

I was able to copy 4 of the 5 files (software, sam, security and default). The 'system' file would not copy. The error message was simply 'This file could not be copied'. The next step in the instructions were to delete them. But since I wasnt able to copy the system file, should I proceed?
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#4
deathninja

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Let me add this suggestion -in no way to undermind the previous tips, they are good ones-.

Do you have another computer or access to one? You can physically remove the hard drive copy your content off of it for back up. Afterwards put the hard drive back in and run the recovery.
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#5
dsenette

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Let me add this suggestion -in no way to undermind the previous tips, they are good ones-.

Do you have another computer or access to one? You can physically remove the hard drive copy your content off of it for back up. Afterwards put the hard drive back in and run the recovery.

that's what i was about to suggest....at this point doing the recovery from the recovery partition looks about like the right way to go
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#6
danielray

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"QUOTE(deathninja @ Dec 19 2007, 02:53 PM)
Let me add this suggestion -in no way to undermind the previous tips, they are good ones-.

Do you have another computer or access to one? You can physically remove the hard drive copy your content off of it for back up. Afterwards put the hard drive back in and run the recovery."



I must be missing something here. If I physically remove the hard drive from laptop A and put it in laptop B, I will enounter the same issues at bootup that I reported on my initial post:

'Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM'
'You can attempt to repair this file by starting Windows Setup using the original Setup CD-ROM.'
'Select r at the first screen to start repair.'

I don't have access to another identical system, but fail to understand how I can back up the data by merely moving the drive over to another laptop. As for the recovery partition that I mentioned, it doesn't seem to be accessible. Normally, when the system boots up, it asks press F1 to access BIOS, F11 to invoke the product recovery or F12 to choose temporary boot device. Having used the product recovery before (awhile back) I recall it was similar to booting from the Windows CD, but it also installed other preloaded software automatically. Also, as I recall it erased everything on the hard drive. So I was reluctant to go there at all. When I did try to go into F11/Recovery program today, it wouldn't go anywhere--and I would end up with same error as above--system file missing or corrupt.

Any other suggestions?
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#7
dsenette

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well the suggestion to take the drive out and move it...was actually based on the idea that you were on a desktop (we probably didn't read something right) with the laptop to accomplish this y ou'd need to get a 2.5" USB hard drive enclosure...which would give you the ability to hook the laptops hard drive up as an external drive and copy the files off
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#8
danielray

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Ah, ok--sorry for the confusion.

So, I do have access to a external USB hard drive. I've used it to backup files from the laptop before (ie. when Windows booted normally). If you can help me get back to a semi-operable Windows system (that will recognize the USB drive) I can do my backup and accomplish my objective.

I can see the 'repair' directory. I also see the five files you had asked me to copy over. Only difference is that the 'system' file has a .bak extension. Otherwise they are all there: default, sam, security, software and system.bak. If I complete part I (without being able to backup the 'system' file) do you think that will allow me to get back to a semi-operable Windows system? I don't mind trying that--what's worse that can happen? My system file is already corrupt...but as I said, I was able to backup the other four files.
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#9
dsenette

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yeah i think you're not finding that file to back it up because it's gone (hence the error message)...basically what you're doing is forcing a system restore outside of windows....follow all the steps....push comes to shove you're just going to have to do the restore (after finding a way to back up your files) if it fails
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#10
The Skeptic

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If I may:

What was suggested by dsennete is the full procedure for registry hives restore. If it doesn't work please try the following options:

1: Boot in safe mode and when given the option try to boot to Last Known Configuration. If not successfull:

2: For this you will need an xp installation disk. If you don't have one try to borrow from a friend. Use the same one that is installede in your computer (xp professional or home edition). Run Recovery Console and at the prompt type chkdisk /r and pres Enter. Let the procedure run to the end. If not successfull:

3: In Recovery Console type the following commands(press Enter after each line):

md tmp
copy C:\windows\repair\system C:\windows\system32\config\system



At the end type exit to boot into windows.
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#11
danielray

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Thanks skeptic for joining in on my mini crusade. Each thread makes me wiser-thanks to you and all the experts.

Since my last post, I found the following suggestion from another expert on recovering the registry files @:

http://repair.tuxmas...org/kb/entry/1/

After copying the four registry files (system, sam, security, & software) from one of the RP directories to the c:\windows\system32\config directory, I then rebooted the machine, got past the 'missing or corrupt sytem file' error message, and then just when the Windows splash screen began to come up, I got the BSOD. I tried rebooting and going in via 'safe mode' but once again, I blue screened. The error message in the BSOD is: 'unmountable_boot_volume'. Is it possible to get past a error message like this? If so, please advise. Thanks!
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#12
The Skeptic

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Have a look at this article from Microsoft, especially at the paragraph "Damaged File System". What you have to do is run chkdsk /r from the recovery console.

Basically what dsennete and tuxmaster suggested are the same: restore registry files to what they were at an earlier time, before the problem started. If chkdsk /r doesn't help then you may run the previous procedures again, choosing an earlier restore point.

Edited by The Skeptic, 21 December 2007 - 10:43 AM.

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#13
danielray

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Hi Skeptic, and thanks for the suggestion. After I ran the registry recovery procedure that I referenced in my last post. I tried to go back into the recovery console and to my surprise it requested an admin pastword. It never requested one before and I don't recall setting one up, so its strange that now it is asking for it. I tried all the usual default types, but nothing worked.

I searched the forums for a password bypass mechanism/process, and did find a reference to a utility that someone wrote. Here's the link to the other thread that discussed ways to bypass the admin pw:

http://www.geekstogo...oot-t65283.html

However, I had to leave on vacation, and will be away from the computer for the next 10 days. So I will attempt that when I return.
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