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Reparing corrupt or missing window/system32/config/system file with OEM installed XP Pro

MSSauter
MSSauter asked
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Last Modified: 2011-08-18
This morning I experienced the pleasure of seeing an error message along the lines of "your computer can't complete startup because the following file is missing or corrupt: windows/system32/config/system."  Obviously, I am desparately trying to avoid losing the data files on the machine, as well as all of the various programs I have installed.  I have no back up (shame on me, but that's where I find myself).

I bought my PC from Velocity Micro with XP Pro preinstalled.  While I have seen some answers already posted concerning this issue, I am concerned about some language on the Microsoft site that pertains to using the Repair Console on a machine that came with XP preinstalled.  The language is: "Warning Do not use the procedure that is described in this article if your computer has an OEM-installed operating system. The system hive on OEM installations creates passwords and user accounts that did not exist previously. If you use the procedure that is described in this article, you may not be able to log back into the recovery console to restore the original registry hives."  I have no idea whether this would pertain to a Velocity Micro install of XP Pro, but I also do not want to risk the loss of all of my data and programs.

Also, I am no master of DOS commands, so you'll have to really "dumb down" your suggested course of action so that I can see exactly what it is I am supposed to type at the C prompt, assuming you send me to the Repair utility on the XP Pro setup CD.

Thanks to whomever reponds.  This is really a depressing situation.
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Commented:
Will the machine boot into safe mode (press F8 on boot up)?

You could install a second copy of windows, assuming you have a bit of spare disk.  Boot from the XP CD, when it tells you it can see an existing windows, tell it to install windows into a different directory, say:
c:\windows_new
when you have finished, you should get a choice of which windows to boot into, boot into the new one,
 copy the system file from windows_new/system32/config/ to windows/system32/config/
Then boot back into the old one.  Does it now work?
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Commented:
Thank you for your post.  I am now at work and my PC is at home.  I can say that when I boot from the XP CD, it does not tell me that it can see an existing windows.  I did choose the install option (as opposed to the repair option) a couple of times this morning.  I was then taken to the window where it displays the license.  You are supposed to hit the F8 key to accept the license.  When I do that, however, nothing happens.

When I get home this evening, I'll try booting into safe mode, but I doubt that it will let me get that far.  I had to turn off and restart several times this morning before it even got to the point of telling me that the file was missing or corrupted.  Most of the time the screen just stays black.

Author

Commented:
Ahh, thank you also Gorman1979.  I hadn't seen your post until I submitted my last comment.  I will do what you said when I get home this evening.  I was in the recovery console this morning.  It never asked me which windows to log into or for my administrator password, but perhaps this is because I'm the sole user of the PC and there is only one windows operating system on it.

If I'm missing something on that last point, let me know, but I will definitely run through the steps you provided tonight.

Thanks again for the advice, including taking the time to say it simply.

Commented:
Here is a similar previously answered question, with a few options.

https://www.experts-exchange.com/Operating_Systems/WinXP/Q_21465855.html

Author

Commented:
Well, here is the situation.  I have two hard drives on my maching.  One consists of two 36 GB drives that are "tied" together (raid?).  The other is a 200GB drive.  If I remember corrrectly, the two joined drives comprised my C drive and the other hard drive had a diferent letter.  In trying to follow the advice above, I immediately ran into the fact that there was no windows folder on what is being listed as the C drive.  

Interestingly, when I use the Windows setup cd to boot into the recovery console and then look via the dir command at the contents of what it thinks is the c drive, what I see is data on the second drive, not what was the c drive.  Therefore, there is, for instance, no windows folder or, for that matter, anything that would even suggest a windows installation.  

Could it be that the drive that formerly functioned as the C drive has gone bad, and that is why the machine can't boot?  I've done a dir command on every letter of the alphabet, and I cannot find the drive that would have had the "My Documents" folder and all of the other normal C drive stuff.

On another issue, it turns out that I did do a backup of the PC at the end of August 05, and that backup file is on the drive I can see, though when I try to look inside the PC Backup folder via the dir command, it tells me that the parameter is invalid.  

Suggestions?

Author

Commented:
gorman1979, thank you, thank you.

The glitch I encountered this morning occurred because I didn't manually load the RAID driver using the prompt in the Recovery Console.  Once I did that, I followed your advice and it fixed the problem.

One small suggestion: in Step 3, tell future novices, like me, that they might be asked whether they want to overwrite system.  I paused at that one, but went ahead and said yes, and it all worked out perfectly.  I would have felt a little more comfortable saying yes if I had seen this referenced in your suggested solution.

But anyway, thanks again.  What a way to learn the importance of backups!

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