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Is Windows gone? Can't repair

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Husband was trying to install gmail and gmail instant messanger. Computer froze and now will not boot,
" windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt:
\windows\system32\config\system "
Can not start in safe mode of any kind
All the F8 options do not work (last known configuration point, system restore point).
Using the Dell Windows XP CD I can boot, I can get to Recovery Console though I don't know how to use it, I can get to Setup, but it does not give me a version of Windows to repair, only one existing partition and it wants to know if I want to install Windows there.
I would prefer to not reinstall as I would lose some data.
Is the repair option missing from the CD, and if so can I get a "real" one somehow? Or is the installation of Windows just gone?

thanks in advance
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Grandad Phillip

Grandad Phillip


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The 'Repair' option will not be available if the Registry has become corrupted as this type of error cannot be repaired in that manner.

Go here: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/307545

Please note, if your copy of windows was pre-installed when you bought the PC, you should not attempt the procedure described on the Microsoft page as it is only intended for self-installed retail versions where a full Microsoft Window XP CD is available to use. If yours was pre-installed I suggest you re-install from the Dell Recovery CD. You will lose data unfortunately, but we are constantly stressing how vital it is to keep regularly updated backups in the event of things like this happening.
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Is this a laptop or a desktop computer?
There are ways to recover the data before a total reformat/reinstall of XP.

You can slave the hard drive to another computer and recover data.
You can do this by plugging in to the data cable (desktop) or using a USB external case that will hold a laptop or a desktop hard drive.

Please let us know how you want to proceed.
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