Missing WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM, and no Safe Mode!

Posted on 2006-11-20
Last Modified: 2007-11-27
My HP xp2000 laptop, running XP Home, was sitting there, not being used, running just fine, when -- BAM -- it went into the blue screen of death.  A reboot produces the typical black screen with text informing me that:

Windows XP could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM

Of course it gives options to try again -- reboot normally, or in safe mode, or using last successful configuration... None of these options works.  All produce the same error.  If I can't even get to safe mode.....  That seems a bit rough.

The person I bought the laptop from will be bringing me the original setup CD, so I can try a repair.  But that's going to be a few days... Is there anything I can do in the meantime?  I have already taken a look at;en-us;307545 , but the solution there indicates that it's not for OEM installations, and I'm pretty sure this HP laptop has an OEM installation.

Help!  And thanks,
Question by:Galisteo8
  • 5
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LVL 66

Accepted Solution

johnb6767 earned 250 total points
ID: 17982694
There is a risk doing that on an OEM install.....It could leave you with no way to get back into teh recovery console if it doesnt work. I belive it is the first succesfull boot after a customer turns the system on....

With that being said.....If you had system restore turned on....You can use bits and pieces of it in teh recovery console....

This will back up the Registry....This is just teh highlights....please read each steps that corresponds......

md tmp
copy c:\windows\system32\config\system c:\windows\tmp\system.bak
copy c:\windows\system32\config\software c:\windows\tmp\software.bak
copy c:\windows\system32\config\sam c:\windows\tmp\sam.bak
copy c:\windows\system32\config\security c:\windows\tmp\security.bak
copy c:\windows\system32\config\default c:\windows\tmp\default.bak

Then jump to the second part and try and recover the registry from a restore point....

From the Snapshot folder, copy the following files to the C:\Windows\Tmp folder: • _REGISTRY_USER_.DEFAULT
11. Rename the files in the C:\Windows\Tmp folder as follows: • Rename _REGISTRY_USER_.DEFAULT to DEFAULT
If you cannot access these pioints, you might need to either slave the drive, or use a BartPE disc, or UBCD to access the files in a GUI mode....

Bart's Preinstalled Environment (BartPE) bootable live windows CD/DVD

Ultimate Boot CD - Overview


Author Comment

ID: 17983359
So, the process you describe could be used even if it is an OEM install?

Also.... I'm not certain I can even get to a command line prompt...
LVL 66

Expert Comment

ID: 17983427
Command line via the recovery console......
LVL 15

Assisted Solution

venom96737 earned 250 total points
ID: 17984492
john you have to do it a little differently you have to use the 8.3 conversion of the restore folders here is the complete run down of how to do it from recovery console.

Make a copy of the registry now first
md tmp
copy c:\windows\system32\config\system c:\windows\tmp\system.bak
copy c:\windows\system32\config\software c:\windows\tmp\software.bak
copy c:\windows\system32\config\sam c:\windows\tmp\sam.bak
copy c:\windows\system32\config\security c:\windows\tmp\security.bak
copy c:\windows\system32\config\default c:\windows\tmp\default.bak

delete c:\windows\system32\config\system
delete c:\windows\system32\config\software
delete c:\windows\system32\config\sam
delete c:\windows\system32\config\security
delete c:\windows\system32\config\default

*just incase an access denied pops up while you are trying to do the below steps*
to get rid of the access denied go back into recovery console and rename the system file to system.bak here are the commands.

 Type cd \ and press the <Enter> key.
Type cd windows\system32\config and press the <Enter> key.
Type ren system system.bak and press the <Enter> key.
Type exit and press the <Enter> key.
Restart the computer.
Then do this to get the snapshot you need from recovery console
cd \
cd system~1
cd _resto~1
 inside it there are several folders named RP1, RP2. These are restore points. RP1 is the oldest restore point.

so say you want to use rp3

cd rp3  
cd snapshot

copy _registry_machine_system c:\windows\system32\config\system
copy _registry_machine_software c:\windows\system32\config\software
copy _registry_machine_security c:\windows\system32\config\security
copy _registry_machine_sam c:\windows\system32\config\sam
copy _registry_user_.default c:\windows\system32\config\default

type exit and you should boot right up to windows.

This is 100 percent safe on OEM installs if you want a complete explanation as to why this is safe but not the other just post and i can give you the whole reasoning.
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Author Comment

ID: 18013366
And each rp corresponds to a successful bootup from the past?

Author Comment

ID: 18013618
Wait.... scratch that last question.  I can't even get Recovery Console to work!

When booting from the Setup CD and choosing 'r' for Recovery Console, I am asked "Which Windows installation would you like to log onto?"  I am given one choice:

1: c\windows

Naturally, I choose this one, and then after a couple of seconds I am presented with an error:

A problem has been detected and Windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your computer.


If this is the first time you have seen this error blah blah blah...

Technical Information:
*** 0x00000051 (0x00000003, 0x00000003, 0x00000000, 0xE11CD000)

What can I do now??? And what does this error mean in light of the error cited in my original post regarding the missing or corrupt \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM file?

Author Comment

ID: 18013651
Please read previous post...  AND here's something else I found about the 0x00000051 error, at :

Error Message:
STOP: 0x00000051 (parameter, parameter, parameter, parameter) REGISTRY_ERROR

This is a Windows 2000 Executive character-mode STOP message. It indicates a Registry or configuration manager problem. An I/O error might have occurred while the Registry was trying to read one of its files. This could be caused by hardware or file system problems. This message might also appear because of a failure in a refresh operation, which occurs when resource limits are encountered.

Uh -- Windows 2000??  I'm running XP Home on that laptop!

Author Comment

ID: 18065788
Followup and finish...

I created a UBCD4Win CD (Ultimate Boot CD for Windows), and was able to firstly revert to an earlier registry.  That allowed the laptop to boot up on its own, at least.  Then, while engaged in other diagnostics, etc., the laptop blue-screened again (with a different error this time), and upon re-booting... well, it doesn't.  I can't even get it to boot from the UBCD4Win anymore.  So that's another question entirely!

I appreciate the posts.


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