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Cannot launch Windows 2000 - "System" file damaged.

Posted on 2006-11-27
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Last Modified: 2010-04-13
This is a two part question, depending on the answer. I am running a dual boot system, to boot into Win2K OR WinXP. Installing some Kodak product led to a crash and I haven't been able to boot into Windows 2000 since - BUT, I have been working without problem in Windows XP and it's vital that I don't damage or alter that installation. The only message is that the "System" (no extension in that filename) file in System32 is damaged. Because of SP upgrades to Win2K and isolated updates from the web, I cannot use the Windows 2000 CD repair options, without overwriting all changed files - my fear of which will be clear in the second half of the question. So my questions are as follows:

1) Is there anything I can do to repair or replace that "System" file from outside the Win2k environment (in this case, after booting into WinXP) that will enable me to start up Windows 2000, and then apply SP 4 and stabilize my Win2k environment?

If it's necessary to use the CD to overwrite all files, my problem is that I don't want to change the boot system - if win2K is installed AFTER winXP, one cannot boot into WinXP. But I believe there are some root files that can be stashed away elsewhere and then subsequently used to overwrite the files that Win2K puts in the root for the dual boot menu. If there is more to that process, I'm unfamiliar with it, plus I don't know which files are involved, thus:

2) What root level files must I protect - secure copies elsewhere temporarily - and/or any other files such that subsequent to effectively re-installing Win2K (by overwriting most OS files) I will be able to restore the dual boot properly such that I can boot into either OS?
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Question by:Terry5135
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by:AlexNek
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> The only message is that the "System" (no extension in that filename) file in System32 is damaged
what is the message exact and when it come?
Try to check system disk with x2k installation.
to 2 Q. I think it is better to use backup software, because you need to store not only files in windows directory.
You can restore only system files without boot sector modify but use before full system backup.
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by:Terry5135
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I no longer see the message because of my own attempts to manually correct the problem, by replacing "system" with another, earlier "system", so I can't give you exact wording - but it was a very simple message that simply said that the "System" file in C:\WINNT\System32 was damaged.

If by "system disk with x2K installation" you meant the Windows 2000 Setup Disk, I did check it. I think this file is generated by the installation, but I don't know. In any event, I couldn't find it on the installation disk.

To the #2 question:
First of all, there is no need to make any modifications to the boot sector.

I was in an office once and installed Win2K AFTER WinXP had already been installed. The Dual Boot menu was available, but upon trying to boot into WinXP, it could not do it. Some file or files were incorrect. To solve the problem, the "technical girl" reinstalled WinXP. However, subsequently, she discovered that a much simpler solution would have been to copy a few files in the root (C:\) directory and then after installing Win2K, copy them back to C:\, overwriting the files of the same name that Win2K created in the root. I don't know/remember what those files were.

I suspect the simple solution is to reinstall/fix Win2000, but I don't want to mess up the dual boot and then have to also reinstall WinXP.
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by:AlexNek
AlexNek earned 50 total points
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system disk with x2K installation" - I mean installation on the hardisk, check disk like with chkdsk.
forXP dual boot is important boot.ini,  NTLDR and NTDETECT
see
http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa460112.aspx
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by:Terry5135
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Ok, thank you for the link to the article. It threw me a little because it talked about Embedded WinXP, which I don't understand. But I did understand the principles. I hope. :)

I know if you install Win2K *AFTER* you install WinXP, the dual boot menu (from the .ini file) will read correctly, but it will not boot into WinXP - I don't really remember, but I think this had to do with version problems. Originally, I was careful to install win2K FIRST, and THEN install WinXP.

It sounds like it may be that the ntldr and/or the NTDETECT.COM files that Windows 2000 creates are different than the same files that installing WinXP creates. Is this correct? I can edit the .ini file directly, so that is not a problem. If I copy the ntldr and NTDETECT.COM files and then, after repairing Win2K, overwrite them in C:\ with the copied version (IF win2K changes them), then I won't have a problem booting into WinXP - is this correct?

I can try this. It's very late here (midnight) and I can't do it tonight, but tomorrow I can give it a shot.
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IPKON_Networks earned 50 total points
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The easiest solution for you, but labour intensive, is to run the fix util off the W2K CD and repair the installation. If that fails, then reinstall W2K.

Once you have this done, you can reinstate your XP versions of the Boot.ini, NTLDR and NTDETECT files. These are backwards compatible from XP but not forwards!

Hope this helps
Barny
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by:Terry5135
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Thank you, ipkon, that's exactly what I intend to do this evening. That's exactly the answer I was looking for, but to be fair, albeit a little confusing, that's pretty much what Alexnek's comments have led me to. Those were the files I was asking about, which he did mention. I'll report my results and then try to figure out what I have to do to close the thread.
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by:IPKON_Networks
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No problem. As long as you get to an answer, it doesn't matter who gives it in my books!

Good luck and let us know.

Barny
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by:Wayne Barron
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The next time that you do a dual boot use "2" different Hard Drives and install
The Each OS on it's own Drive/Partition.
The you just edit the boot.ini file and that is it.
This way you will never have to worry about messing with the earlier versions
And being afraid that it will mess up the current version.
(This is something that I did on my first Dual-Boot System, It works great)
---------
As for the problem. Run the Repair option from the Win2k Install (If
Nothing else works) Then Boot the computer up into Win2k, and install SP4
And then SP4 Rollup.

Once you have them installed, simply backup all your important data
And then plain the Reinstall of the system.

(Follow my directions above, and you will not have to worry about bothing
Your WinXP installation)

Take Care and Good luck
Carrzkiss
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by:johnb6767
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Were you referring to c:\winnt\system32\CONFIG\system?
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by:Terry5135
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Yes, I was - I'm very sorry! It's been a while since I've gotten the message and I was going from memory.

You're absolutely right!

Anything to do besides the total repair job IPKON suggested?
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by:IPKON_Networks
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You say that you have replaced this file with another version (one from the install CD maybe?). This will have changed with the various service packs/hotfixes so you need a fairly recent one to ensure a clean boot. However, why was it corrupted. Generally you don't get a single file corruption, so what else has been broken and needs replacing?

Once you are back up and running, I'd also run a chkdsk and defrag just to make sure you have a clean physical disk structure and all file indexes are sound.

Hope this helps
Barny
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by:venom96737
venom96737 earned 40 total points
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Well to shed some light on the subject your first problem where you had the techie girl copy some root files and this problem are completly unrelated.  The first one had to deal with the boot files Ntdetect and ntldr as was mentioned.  Those are the files she could have  copied.  Anyway onto this newer problem which is quit simply that your registry is messed up.  Now unlike xp win 2000 doesnt offer a restore feature but it does back up the system file.  Trying first using the .alt version of the system file in recovery console type this
copy c:\winnt\system32\config\system.alt c:\winnt\system32\config\SYSTEM

If that works your in buisness also try to get your hands on a tool called rdisk.exe that comes with windows nt what this tool does is it updates the system file located in the /repair folder so you can use that file to fix problems such as this it could be helpful in the future.  What sounds like your problem started from is the 3 mb system hive limit it seems that windows 2000 created for itself.
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by:Terry5135
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Excellent answers all. Ipkon, I suspected other files may have been corrupted as well, but I never did find out. venom, I'll definitely dig up rdisk.exe. I did find an alternate 'system' file in a repair folder, but it didn't seem to help me much.

It simply wouldn't repair and believe me, I went a little nuts waiting for it to check the drive every time, lol. I went through the repair options and selected manual each time. This allowed me to skip ntdlr and NTDETECT.COM and then repair everything else, but it didn't work. Alternatively, I restored the original 'system' that was there right after the crash (I had put the repair folder version in in its place) and I got my original message back, but still the repair wouldn't work. I tried removing it entirely, but then the repair couldn't proceed because it couldn't find a win2K installation. Lastly, I copied 'system.sav' in that same folder and named it 'system'.

On that note, It did launch and it also launched SETUP (the CD was still in the drive). Having stashed away the root files discussed, I went ahead and simply reinstalled. Now it's running beautifully, but all my shortcuts, etc, on the desktop are gone and it's as if the installations of software had never happened.

What's interesting to me is that the dual boot into Win2K and WinXP still works perfectly - I didn't need to restore the ntdlr or ntdetect files. Beats me!

What's also interesting is that it created an entirely new set of 'Administrator', 'All Users', and 'Default User' folders (I had always logged in as administrator), but with extensions which are the name of the computer I assigned - so, for instance, say I named the computer PeterPan, now I have the original 'Administrator' folder AND an 'Administrator.PeterPan' folder, and so on.

My next experiment will be to 'store' the new folders; copy the previous Administrator, All Users, and Default User files and folders into the new ones, to see if my original desktop, start menu, etc, etc, are all restored.

You've all been remarkably helpful - this is my first excursion into this site and I'm highly impressed. If it's kosher and acceptable to the powers that be, I'll leave this thread open just one more day, to update all of you if there is anything to add. I'll split the points between a couple of you, but this is difficult as, honestly, you all deserve points for various bits and pieces of information you've given me.

Thank you - VERY much - and I'll be back tomorrow.
Terry
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by:johnb6767
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What you can do also, to get your profiles back under the appropriate profile names, without the .peterpan (you may not even care about it). Backup the entire contents of the docs and settings folder to a safe location, and then go to Control Panel>System>Advanced>User Accounts> and remove the profiles for the ones listed. There should be a few unknowns as well...Then when you log back in, it will create the administrator profile without the .peterpan.

Then you can just manually rebuild the profile...My docs, favorites, desktops etc....

Glad your up and running though!!
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by:johnb6767
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Hey Venom96737....

make a quick post here for me please. Thanks!!

http://www.experts-exchange.com/Operating_Systems/WinXP/Q_22075697.html
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by:venom96737
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Terry you did not follow my instructions carefully I never told you to use the alt file from the repair folder.  I told you to use the alt file from the config folder here is the reason why.  The files from the repair folder are from the very first time you ever booted the system successfully so just like the cd versions wouldnt work that wouldnt work.  the one from the config folder would have been a copy of the registry after the last successful boot so just before you installed the program that caused the OS to stop working hence it should have brought it back.

What happened?  Well my theory on what happened is that the old system hive to big problem came into play.  There was a problem with windows 2000 that when the system hive became to large (over 3 mb usually) It would cause this error.  Glad you got it back up and going and you may be able to pull the old registry files and profiles over and intergrate them into your new install best of luck.
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by:Terry5135
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I'm sorry, venom, I didn't specify every single step I've tried nor everything I looked at. I DID indeed understand you - the alt file you specified was an exactly duplicate of the 'system' file. I don't know why this would be, but I surmise that it was being overwritten with each attempt to launch Win2K. And, btw, if by 'system hive' you mean the 'system32\config\system' file, then you are right, it had expanded to over 3 mb - over 5 mb, in fact.

I only tried the repair folder version because I couldn't boot once repair had overwritten changed files from the original install. I guessed that the repair version might be as you've described, which was why I tried it after the other attempts failed.

Anyway, it's up and running, I've applied service pack 4, and from now on I just have some cleanup to do.

Incidentally, John, the user accounts were not in advanced, but in their own tab, at the same level as advanced. All that was there was the administrator account and it could not be deleted. That's ok, I can happily live with "administrator.compname" and so on. I manually copied files over from the previous installation and they all appeared. I did NOT copy over all the temp files. And the installations did not appear in the registry. I don't know if there is a connection between these two things.
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by:Terry5135
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My apologies for the delay coming back. But I wish to thank each and everyone of you for all the informative suggestions and replies. I'll divide points among a few who first answered my question as fairly as I can, which of course cannot be fair really, because some deserving people will be left out.
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by:venom96737
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OK terry im glad you got it back up and running and I hope you can find that tool so you can have sort of a back up plan for the future.  This problem has plauged alot of windows 2000 users good luck in the future.
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by:Terry5135
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Many thanks!
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