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XP SP2 Can't Boot because of lsass.exe

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This is my first post at this forum. I've just recently strolled in looking for help with my system. I am very excited to have joined such a forum as I quite enjoy the site design. In addition, the posts here seem to be quite professional unlike many other forums I am a member of. Thank all of you, administrators, site moderators, and users for making this such a wonderful place.

Now, on with my problem. Boy, I hope someone out there can help me. Using the search feature of this site, I haven't seen anyone post anything about my current situation.

I am running Windows XP with Service Pack 2. Take note that I did not make any changes to hardware or software before this issue came about.

When my computer boots, it displays the Windows loading screen with the scrolling bar at the bottom. The screen flashes as if it is loading the desktop and then BAM, an error message appears. It says that the lsass.exe file doesn't have the correct MZ. I tried to boot in safe mode...nothing. I got the same error message.

Online research led me to try something in the Recovery Console. Basically, I created a temporary directory called TMP in the Windows Folder. I copied the startup files - SAM, Security, User, etc. - into the TMP directory. Next, I deleted the apparent corrupt startup files (found in C:\windows\system32\*.*). I then moved the original startup files into the system32 directory. Windows has these files hidden in a repair folder which I was unaware of. With the new files in place, I rebooted the machine, crossed my fingers, and tried to cross my toes. The Windows loading screen stayed up for several minutes. I thought I was actually on to something. Then, unfortunately, the message appeared again. I tried, for some reason, to boot into safe mode but that didn't work either.

Most research on this lsass.exe file discusses various viruses causing the system to reboot from time to time its own. I've seen nothing online that discusses the lsass.exe process keeping the system from booting.

I realize that I can run the Repair Install and fix my system files. I know I'll still have my data and applications installed, but if my memory serves me right, I think I had problems with this before too. When the system becomes operational again from a Repair Install, won't my Start Menu be empty? The system will have no knowledge of my previous preferences, will it? In short, I am saying that my data and programs will be there, but I don't think they are easily accesable. I'm pretty sure, I had to reinstall Office XP again. It wouldn't run at all. In addition, I know I'll have to reinstall Service Pack 2 and update Windows again.

If I bring the system back from the Repair Install, I'm pretty sure I have documentation on how to envoke old Restore Points inside the System Restore program. I wonder if I can do the install, invoke the old restore points, and use one to get my system back to normal.

Unless anyone can assist me, I'm going to try this method of recovery. I am using this method as a very last resort.

Any and all information will be greatly appreciated.

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