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How to repair or re install XP pro when original XP disc is not available.

I have a PC which has a very corrupt XP pro. It was purchased on ebay (not by me) and did not come with any discs.
It may or not be a legal version. The system boots and goes into windows but has many things missing from the desktop (like the start button for example). The hardware is not faulty. Doing sfc /scannow has not helped. There are no restore points and last known good does not help.
Apart from buying a stand alone copy of XP what other preferably legal pathways do I have? Can I use another XP disc to make a repair? Can I replace files manually? Can I repair the desktop?
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3 Solutions

Sounds like you really should do a complete format & reinstall.  Especially since it was purchased from a previous owner.

If the PC is like most mainstream PCs it was purchased with a license, and it has a Microsoft Certificate of Authenticity seal somewhere on the box.  If that is the case, since you already own the PC and therefore the license you can reinstall from any disc and still be legal.

The problem is you need a disc, and don't have one.  If you don't have a friend or coworker that can loan you a retail copy or a copy from the same vendor you might try calling the manufacturer.


ozgaryAuthor Commented:
There is no certificate on the box. It is not a brand name PC.
If in theory I did have the license number I dont think it would work because is not the number linked to the actual disc? ( I know we are not talking about the activation code here)
Hello ozgary, Here is something to try: Borrow a copy of WinXP installation disk. Boot from CD. When it asks what type of install you want, type number of installation(1, if WinXP is only OS) and press enter. Type P/W for admin. acct.. When Recovery Console is running you will see prompt C:\Windows> which tells you the name of the directory you are in.(If you don't have admin P/W I'll give that workaround later).Now you can type commands and press enter just like in DOS. (To see a list of available commands type 'help' and press enter). type in 'fixboot C:' (assuming C is your drive leter). This will rewrite the boot sector.  When that is done type in 'chkdsk C: /p',this will check and repair files and folders. Exit Recovery Console and Restart, Ccheck and see if probs are fixed ... if not then restart, with Cd still in drive. When Install wizard comes up select 'Repair'.
workaround for admin P/W:
run regedit, set the value of H_KEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\WindowsNT\CurrentVersion\Setup\RecoveryConsole\SecurityLevel to '1' . Exit registry.
I hope this helps you out...Booda2us
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firstly i would get the product key, use Magic Jellybean to get it
The Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder is a freeware utility that retrieves your Product Key (cd key) used to install windows from your registry.
download here

then find out if this windows is currently activated:
In Run...

%systemroot%\system32\oobe\msoobe.exe /a
it should either ask to activate or state it is, hopefgully it is.

If it is your halfway already.
Next is this an OEM version, liek what computer is this? Del HP Compaq? These usually have OEM evrsions which you woulkd have to buy a new xp pro OEM and format clean install. OEM is original equipment manufacture only, as in new installs cannot be upgraded.

If not OEM then you should b able to perform a recovery using any retail xp pro cd and insert that key you now have.
Does this system have xpsp2?
Uninstall xpsp2 from add remove programs.
This may solve the problem before attempting recovery using xpsp1.
Re-install xps2.
Check that the computer meets the requirements for xpsp2
Get Your PC Ready for Windows XP SP2

recovery console fully illistrated

Regards merete
Ryan_RIT Systems AdministratorCommented:
have you tried installing a service pack over it. no key is required, and it overwrites most of your system files. otherwise you should purchse XP from the store
Russell LuckCommented:
There are many good suggestions already but to be on the safe side, I would call Microsoft in your local area and explain your situation.
In all likely hood the install will be an OEM or an illegal install, and in both cases your out of luck and will need to buy Windows or run linux.
But just to make sure microsoft can help you check and will only cost you some time, if your install is valide then they may be able to post you an new disc for a low cost $10- $20.
But Merete's suggestion is a good one.
You will run into this issue sonner or later as windows tends to become unstable over indefinate periods of time, I would suggest re-installing windows at least at every 12 maybe 18months.

let us know how you go
And good luck
sounds to me like your system was installed with a corporate vlk product key. If this is the case then your not running a legal copy. There is no license number on the box at all?
ozgaryAuthor Commented:
I have recovered the  product key using a keyfinder. - good suggestion Merete
 Service pack 2 will not install - good suggestion though Ryan R
 I borrowed a slipstreamed XP with SP2 on it and attempted a repair which proceeded normally until the key needed to be entered. It would not accept the key that I found in point 1. above. This would make sense as the key is probably tied to the disc. I am not sure whether the CD was a retail version precisely.

1. So now when I reboot it logically wants to complete the install so how do I uninstall this install to get back to where I was?
2. If I had a true RETAIL version would this work using the key in point 1.?
3. If I had a true OEM version would this work using the key in point 1.?
Russell LuckCommented:
          The product key for XP is usually linked with a release batch which covers a time frame I do not know.
But for example, a system I was repairing had a BADLY scratched Xp home disc SP1 so I had to track down someone who I could borrow a XP Home SP1 disc off.
I found two of that type but only one was compatible, both were OEM as was the original.
If you boot off the CD and wait for the first option screen to appear, Press "R" there to active recovery console.
When it finishes loading, hope there is no admin password, try to press enter here with nothing entered.
If you can get in, type "chkdsk /p"
CTRL, ALT & DEL a choose reboot.

Let us know how you go.
ozgaryAuthor Commented:
Rawit - are you saying that by running chkdsk /p it will undo the repair/reinstall that it is trying to complete?
Russell LuckCommented:
No I'am not type
"c:attrib -h c:\boot.ini"            then
"c:attrib -r c:\boot.ini"
"c:attrib -s c:\boot.ini"
Russell LuckCommented:
Sorry silly tab then space entered the last lot too early

Do the above then

"c:del boot.ini"

"bootcfg /rebuild"
enter 1 for windows installs
press y
type in whatever here probably just "Windows XP" under load identifier
Now under OS load options type "/fastdetect"
Now type fixboot and press Y

I forgot you were stuck on the reinstall loop.

ozgaryAuthor Commented:
Yes that does make sense if the install is starting from boot.ini
I will do this but does this take me back to what I originally had prior to attempting repair/install?
ozgary back a bit, you state here>>
It would not accept the key that I found in point 1.
ok the reason is beacuse of the xpsp2, sounds like he had sp1 installed then upgraded to sp2,  now I dont if it is possible for you to access safemode, add remove programs uninstall xpsp2.
What makes this more difficult now is the fact that you may have corrupted the MBR with a failed attempt at recovery.
I think the best option here as this is not a Laptop, take out the hdd slave it, then using another computer unplug its cdrom ide and power connector into this hdd nad save off any necessary files you could even ghost it.
chkdsk defrag etc virus scan it. Format it. Backup the drivers.
Look in the computer management disc management at this hdd partition. He mayhave the hidden recovery partition.

There is a high chance this relooping is caused by the recovery not finding drivers for the mainboard which may mean he has either added a new video card or some device that was not part of the original install. That is OEM.Original Equipment Manufacture.
Remove all extra external devices. so that the OEM only finds generic devices.
ozgaryAuthor Commented:
Merete - I think I will get it to boot properly by rebuilding boot.ini.
Yes xpsp2 could be an issue
I will look again but I think I have checked for a hidden recovery partition. How would you run it if it was found?
I think the re looping is because of the invalid key entered not hardware issues at this point.
Russell LuckCommented:
When you get back your system booting normally try the chkdsk /p under recovery console.

Which brand is the computer ozgary HP DEL?
I'll have to link you if thats ok this covers it really well.
This document pertains to HP and Compaq desktop PCs with Windows XP.

HP and Compaq Desktop PCs - Troubleshooting System Recovery Problems in Windows XP
DEL. Please browse and help yourself:

for windows2000>> may help anyway as it uses simsilar :

access a hidden partition on the hard drive by hitting Ctrl+F11, which will take you to a restore solution that wipes your hard drive clean and replaces it with a factory-fresh image on the computer.

It is important to note that, in many cases, if you uninstall a program, like, for example, PowerDVD5.5, that does not come with a disc, you will not be able to reinstall the computer program separately without taking this drastic recovery step. It is also important to note that recovering in this manner reinstalls every piece of software on the system, even those you didn’t want.
The plus side to this recovery solution is that when we tried it we were able to get our computer up and running within 5 minutes.
The downside is that if, for some reason, the master boot record is overwritten – say by some malware, by an alternative-OS install, or even by an improperly coded program – you’re not able to recover your computer. Considering all that could go wrong with the master boot record, this is an Achilles’ heel recovery solution. If your computer’s hard drive is broken or upgraded, you’ve just lost your operating system. And of course, even if nothing goes wrong, you’ve still eliminated a bunch of free space on your hard drive that could be put to much better use

Good Luck Merete
just a thought
 Boot from the XP CD, get into the Recovery Console, and type the following commands:

Ryan_RIT Systems AdministratorCommented:
if you get an access is denied msg 30 mins into installing SP2, then use this site to reset the registry settings and run it again:


ozgaryAuthor Commented:
1. It is a dell which was originally windows 98. Dell cannot supply recoveryCD for XP for obvious reasons.
2. There is no recovery partition
3. Have tried the bootcfg and fixboot and fixmbr options
4. I am still stuck in the install loop!
5. I will try point 3. again.
What is the video card onboard maybe removing these will help, if the hardware does not match generic brands so that xpcd can supply drivers.
You donot have to agree to the EULA until the software is installed.

Then you could use the magic jellybean
The Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder is a freeware utility that retrieves your Product Key (cd key) used to install windows from your registry

Configure your computer to start from the CD-ROM drive. For more information about how to do this, refer to your computer's documentation or contact your computer manufacturer. Then insert your Windows XP Setup CD, and restart your computer.

 When the Press any key to boot from CD message is displayed on your screen, press a key to start your computer from the Windows XP CD.
 Press ENTER when you see the message To setup Windows XP now, and then press ENTER displayed on the Welcome to Setup screen.
 Do not choose the option to press R to use the Recovery Console.
 In the Windows XP Licensing Agreement, press F8 to agree to the license agreement.
 Make sure that your current installation of Windows XP is selected in the box, and then press R to repair Windows XP.
 Follow the instructions on the screen to complete Setup.
Ryan_RIT Systems AdministratorCommented:
if you run repair option with any old illegal disc it will setup fine, however if you want to install IE v7 or WMP v11 from microsoft then i doubt that your system will pass as genuine. I;m not sure if the repair option asks for a serial number (i think it does actually)

unless merete is talking about a dos app i'm unsure on how you're supposed to run jelly bean. Sure you could run it before you start setup (in your faulty windows xp) but it would retrieve a different key to that of a disc that's not the same one used to setup your current version of xp.
Russell LuckCommented:
I think previously Ozgary got the key with magicaljelly Bean but it didn't work with the disc he got hold of. I will do some more research and get back to you about the loop.
Hang in there.
Russell LuckCommented:
There is a temporary folder that repair makes called  $WIN_NT$.~BT but I do not know what will occur if it is deleted or how to modify it to stop the loop.
Also your best bet would be to try to find a cd that your product key works with and start a repair from it, which would stop the current one and hopefully fix most of your problems.
I am going to do a fresh install of windows the start a repair and see what I can do about breaking the loop.
I will let you know how I go.
" I have recovered the  product key using a keyfinder"
goto the microsoft site and get them to validate the key.

repairing what looks like a heavily corrupted xp version (probably due to priate version) looks futile and time wasting.
But if you like a challenge you could spend months trying to fix every single thing wrong with this version of windows.

Buying a 2nd hand pc is fine as long as you take a simple security procedure and zero the hard drive, then reformat it to whatever partitions you require and install xp using a genuine disc and of course a genuine key.

ozgaryAuthor Commented:
Thanks for all efforts. I gave up and bought an OEM version of XP home and installed.
I have allocated points for the things I tried and was not previously aware of or I had forgotten.
Regards - Gary
Thanks Gary, I agree the best choice solved once and for all.
Ryan_RIT Systems AdministratorCommented:
Thanks Gary - at least you won't have to ask question like this again now that you're legit
it's a pretty good feeling
Ryan R
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