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XP will not start

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XP will not start
One of the most common problems, posted on this forum is "XP will not load".
Most people asking for help have already tried a few "fixes", either from a web search or from their own knowledge.
When these attempts have failed, and hopefully before they run some "Magic Fix" they have found advertised on the web, they then post their problem on this or another similar site.

HERE, is an excellent guide to the various methods available to resolve the issue.


Although written for the expert, many of the solutions are commonplace, for example, Safe Mode and other options from the F8 key. Many others are less well known and still remain perfectly safe for the user with average ability levels.
HOWEVER, my advice would be - DO NOT ATTEMPT any of the registry edits, that are available when you can enter Safe Mode, but not normal mode. You may end up with a system that will NOT load any mode and can only be repaired with a clean installation.

Using the information on the link, readers will see that the Recovery Console is frequently used to fix a problem when Windows will not load in any mode.
Perhaps the most common use is to run chkdsk (check disk) to repair file system errors and/or recover data from bad sectors. The commands used here are different from those used within Windows, and are basically "chkdsk /p" which equates to "chkdsk /f" - fix file system errors, and "chkdsk /r" which is the attempted recovery of information from bad sectors. the "r" suffix includes "p" by default.

The Recovery Console is loaded from the XP CD. However, frequently this cannot be found, or is not available as the computer came with Windows pre-installed and either a recovery partition on the hard drive, or a recovery CD. Many recovery CD`s provided with OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) computers, although they can be used to reinstall XP, do NOT include the recovery console.

A very worthwhile procedure, BEFORE you encounter a problem is to install the recovery console, to the hard drive. To do this you will need the XP CD, if you have one, or you will need to borrow an XP CD. This will need to be of the same edition ie: Home, Professional, Media Centre, etc. as your installation.
The procedure is then simple and can be found here, at option three, togther with other advice on its use.


The installation of the Recovery Console onto the hard drive, may not be possible, for instance - you may not be able to obtain an XP CD. You can still use the Recovery Console, but ONLY for the basic commands that rely for their successs on the files, located on the hard drive. Any command that would use files on the XP CD is NOT of course available.
To make a recovery console CD, using an ISO image, requires a CD to be burnt with a program that includes an ISO burner. Clearly, if you leave this, until your system fails it must then be done on another computer.
Here are the instructions:
Download this ISO file

and burn the CD using this

You will then have a Recovery Console CD. I recommend you do this WHILE your system is working. You will have enough worries, once it fails and it is so much easier when everything is to hand.

A common cause of a failure to load Windows is corruption of the boot.ini files. If the recovery console is not available and sometimes far easier is to boot using an XP floppy boot disc. This is not the same as the floppy used to boot DOS. An XP boot floppy contains the necessary boot files.
Make one NOW, before your system crashes.
Here are the instructions.

USING your XP CD to repair or reinstall your operating system. Many people do not realise that a repair install can only succeed, if the CD is NOT only of the same type as the installation, meaning XP Home to XP Home and Professional to Professional, but ALSO of the same edition and update status. If your installed system is SP3, you cannot repair it using you XP SP1 or 2 CD.
AGAIN and I make no apologies for repeating this - DO NOT WAIT until it goes wrong. Make your preparations for when that occurs, while your system is working. I say WHEN and not IF, because one day it will go wrong.
HERE are your instructions for using the repair install facility.

The EXCELLENT guide from the admin of Geekstogo

However, as mentioned above you need to use your existing XP CD with for instance Service Pack 2 and the guidance below, to make a new CD. This is called slipstreaming SP3 and your XP CD to your new CD.

and here is a link to nlite, one of the most popular ways of slipstreaming.

If your computer crashes beyond recovery, it does not matter how good your preparation, outlined above was. A mechanical failure on the hard drive, as against a data corruption is frequently unrecoverable.
BACKUP to an external drive. This is one of the most simple and effective methods of ensuring that you do not lose those irreplaceable family photographs etc.
A COMPLETE image backup will save you all that heartache.

There are many ways of doing this. XP provide one, on the Professional edition and it may also be installed on the Home edition. Here is the link:

It is not the easiest to use, nor indeed the best. There are many free utilities that are easier and more effective.
If your internal hard drive, or your external drive is Western Digitial then they provide a free edition of Acronis.
Here is the link

and a link to a listing of other manufacturers sites, not all of whom provide imaging software

The BACKUP is vital for any computer on which there is data that cannot easily be replaced. It caters for one of the inherent weaknesses of OEM builds, where XP was pre-installed, the installation CD was not provided and the
hard drive has a recovery partition. WHEN that drive fails beyond repair, that recovery partition may just have well NEVER existed.

There is of course, much more that could be included in a guide of this nature, but when that day arrives and Windows will not load, I hope you find it helpful. Even more so, I hope you read it before that event.

Posted with due acknowledgement to all the links and information sources.

Edited by Artellos, 01 December 2010 - 07:57 AM.
Placed in the guide.

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