Hard Drive Failure / Windows XP Install / Keyboard Freeze

Thanks for taking the time to look at my question.

My PC runs Windows XP professional SP4. It is 5 years old and, once I get this problem solved, will be replaced. It has been locking up over the past week. I run Spy Sweeper every night and a full virus scan every week. Today it locked up; when I restarted it I got this message:

"Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt:
\windows\system32\config\system"

I went to www.microsoft.com to troubleshoot it. I found instructions in article 307545 and got through half the steps to where the PC would boot up. However, once I got to the login screen, the minute I hit a key on the keyboard (to do ctrl+alt+delete) the keyboard and mouse freeze. Same thing in safe mode.

I set the bios to boot from CD and put in my Windows XP Pro disk. I pressed ENTER to install Windows, it detected Windows XP and I pressed "R" to repair the current installation of Windows.

However, once I get to the part where I need to enter a key code, the keyboard and mouse both freeze once I hit a key. Now I am stuck in a loop where I cannot interrupt this repair to try anything different. The point in the installation has only "back" and "next" options that I can click with my mouse, but no "cancel." If I restart without the XP disk in the drive, it attempts to repair Windows without it, then prompts for it.

I have already decided to get a new PC. However, my "My Documents" folder is not backed up. I want to retrieve that data.

Here are the options I have considered:

1. Install a second copy of Windows XP in the same partition to a different directory (e.g., c:\windows2). The only problem with this is, every time I start up the PC it wants to continue the repair that is already in progress. It get stuck at the part where it asks for a key code, and the keyboard/mouse freeze once a key is pressed. If there were a way to cancel this repair and start with a fresh install, I might make progress.

2. Install the failing hard drive as a slave on another PC just long enough to grab the data. I tried that this morning. I set it up as a slave in the BIOS. I entered the information manually as to Cycles, Heads, etc. However, the startup reports an error with the slave drive and will not start up. When I remove the slave drive it starts up normally.

I have read through a lot of the articles on Experts Exchange to find a solution. If I could get the keyboard to work I might make progress, however, once a key is pressed it's a no-go and I'm stuck at one spot in the Windows repair.

The keyboard is a standard PS/2.

This is worth 500 points if I can get a solution that will allow me to simply access the data on the failing drive long enough to move it to my external hard drive, then I'm good. Thanks for any insight you can provide.
jhardwickAsked:
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CallandorCommented:
If the drive cannot be installed in another machine as a slave drive, your options are limited, because it is unlikely to boot either.  Install it as a slave drive and make sure the jumpers are correctly set.  Then go into the BIOS and let it autodetect the drive (position the cursor on the IDE channel and hit enter).  If it can't autodetect the drive, then try the manual entry method.  Your description of it causing the system to hang when plugged in may indicate a logic board problem, which is pretty serious and can't be resolved without sending the drive to a data recovery facility.  If the drive is properly detected and lets you boot up, copy the data as soon as possible to a good drive.  Use GetDataBack (www.runtime.org) if you can't read it.
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MrBillisMeCommented:
If you cannot install the hard drive as a slave drive then the drive is in really bad shape and the likelyhood of having it actually run an OS is not good.
Make sure your jumpers are set correctly and try to slave the drive to a modern PC running XP with the BIOS set to auto for hard drives, that way you have the best opportunity of the drive being seen, and possibly pulling data from it.
If you let the drive hang but grounded to bottom of case you would be able to do the rotating the drive with wrist action before you start the PC. Perhaps it will find a happy spot and start to spin. Be careful not to short or spark it when leaving loose in case.

Good luck.
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jhardwickAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the comments so far. I am going to try again to connect it as a slave drive.

Would the detection problem be related to the fact that there was a Windows XP repair in progress? That's what it does when I boot it up in the original PC.
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CallandorCommented:
No, it wouldn't affect the detection by the BIOS, but I have seen WinXP systems that got confused if they saw two separate bootable partitions.  In that case, you have to make sure the BIOS correctly specifies the hard drive to boot from.
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willcompCommented:
What is make of primary master (boot) drive on second system and how is it jumpered?  Western digital drive jumpering can be tricky.

Try connecting drive as secondary master instead of slave on primary and see if it then installs properly.

Second PC must have XP or 2000 installed to read an NTFS partition (XP default).

Another alternative is to boot from a Knoppix CD and retrieve data.
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jhardwickAuthor Commented:
Interesting comment from Willcomp, the Master drive on the second system is a Western Digital. I attempted to attach the slave drive on the same ribbon. The slave drive is an IBM. The second PC does have Windows XP.
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willcompCommented:
You will have to either jumper both drives for Cable Select (preferable in this case) or jumper WD drive for Master and IBM drive for Slave.

In most cases WD drives are unjumpered (single drive) or set to Cable Select (factory default).  When a WD drive is set to Master, a slave drive must be present.
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Diane258Commented:
1) In all honesty i don't believe that your hard drive is failing(at least nothing you said here tells me that it is failing). It sounds like you just need a format/reinstall of windows XP.

2) It is possible that you have some bad Memory, and that is what is causing your lockups.

3) since it seems that you cannot put two hard drives in your good system. one idea would be to get an "external enclosure" for your "failing" hard drive. Put the "Failing" hard drive into the enclosure. Then plug that into your good computer and get the files off of it.
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willcompCommented:
Original problem was a corrupt registry.  Apparently he was trying to perform a repair install of XP after attempting to fix the registry.  I believe he is just stuck in a corruped XP installation and can not get out - have seen it happen.  Only way to recover at this point is a partition, format, and clean install.

Drive should be readable in another PC.

I agree that most likely there is nothing wrong with the hard disk.  Memory is probably OK as well.

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willcompCommented:
What?
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jhardwickAuthor Commented:
I resolved my issue for Question ID 21612055, but I accepted an answer from Diane258 and actually wanted to split the points between her and Willcomp.

They did not post the exact solution, but did point me in the right direction.

The solution was to put in a different Windows XP Pro Cd, boot from that CD, and install Windows again to the same partition but in a different directory. This allowed me to retrieve my data, which was the point of the question.

I have posted a request in the Community area asking for these two experts to receive 250 points each.
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willcompCommented:
Thanks.
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MrBluesmanCommented:
Just for the future:
My own solution in those cases is using an external USB 2.0 box for IDE drives.
I use a different system, build the troublemaker into the USB box and connect the box to the (already running) 2000 SP4 or XP SP2 system.
Then wait for the drivers to install theirselves. Even if the filesystem is corrupted, you have at least the possibilty to copy the uncorrupted data from the disk.
Afterwards I run a chkdsk DRIVE: /F /R on the now external drive and try to get the filesystem working again, then copy the rest.
Those boxes cost apprx. US$ 35 - 45, I´d recommend the Pleiades by http://www.macpower.com.tw
Just my 2 cents... :-)
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jhardwickAuthor Commented:
Thanks everyone, now that the question is open again I would like to allocate the points as follows:

50 points for Callendor, who responded quickest and pointed me to GetDataBack (www.runtime.org). If I had not resolved the situation I may have needed that resource.

225 points to Willcomp, who posted several helpful comments, and also noted issues with Western Digital Drives (which I do have in my spare PC; I'll keep an eye on that). He also correctly noted that I was stuck in a corrupted XP installation.

225 points to Diane258. When she noted that it didn't sound like the hard drive was failing, I stopped what I was doing (trying to get the drive to work as a slave) and tried once again to just get a good copy of Windows going. I inserted a different Windows XP Pro disk, booted from it, and started a clean install on the same partition into a Windows2 directory.

This allowed me to move all my data to an external hard drive.

Thanks again everyone for all your help!
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