How to initiate XP Repair Install

Posted on 2007-08-02
Last Modified: 2008-01-09

I hope someone can help me with this situation. A Dell Optiplex 745 that is a member of a Server 2003 domain (More on the machine configuration in a moment) started with a "Windows XP could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM". I've dealt with this error before by running CHKDSK /f (did not work in this case) or by manually replacing the SYSTEM file with the SYSTEM file from the Repair folder, either using the Repair Console or by connecting the HDD to my laptop and moving the file in Explorer then re-installing the HDD in the original computer.

Okay, this machine does not have an optical or floppy drive, and the Repair Console is not installed on the HDD, so that option is out. I moved the SATA HDD to my laptop using a USB adapter, and browsed to the Repair folder. There was a system.bak file, but no SYSTEM file. According to my past experience, the MS KB, and what I have read elsewhere on the Internet, there should be a SYSTEM file in the Repair folder. (Explorer is set to show all hidden and system files). I moved the system.bak file to the Config folder and renamed it SYSTEM.

Now the machine starts, goes to the desktop and then the USB mouse and keyboard are not functional (The KB does function during POST, the computer does not have PS/2 ports). It is not possible to do anything, plus the problem is not really fixed because it normally goes to the logon screen instead of straight to the desktop. If the Mouse and KB were functional I might try a System Restore.

Now I want to do a repair install. I am not able to do this and here's why: Since the machine has no CD-ROM I attempted to temporarily add one and there is no IDE port on the MB. I used an IDE to SATA cable and hooked it to SATA port #1 on the MB, Enabled SATA port #1 in the BIOS and set the boot order to boot from the CD-ROM (which the BIOS recognized) first. It simply would not boot from the CD-ROM. I even added an IDE PCI card with the CD-ROM attached, and the Setup program froze at Setup is inspecting your computers hardware configuration.

So after several hours of trying different approaches, I seem not to be able to run Repair Console or otherwise fix this issue. My first question is Where is the SYSTEM file I expected to see in the Repair folder? And secondly, is there any way to run Repair Console, or get it installed on the drive while attached to another machine? Or any other method to deal with this?

Thanks so much for your time!

Question by:westone
    LVL 63

    Accepted Solution

    1) You may need to purchase a SATA CDROM drive.

    2) The fact that the system froze while trying to do a repair install may be indicative of your problem.

    3) You should be able to use the system.bak file after making a copy and renaming it to system.

    I hope this helps !

    Author Comment

    I do believe you are correct, a SATA CD-ROM would do the trick. Just in case you did not catch it, please note that the system.bak was moved and renamed system but it did not work.

    The system is repaired. I hooked the drive back to my laptop and searched it for "SYSTEM". A number of folders and files resulted, including several named "_REGISTRY_MACHINE_SYSTEM" in System Restore snapshot folders. I opened the most recent snapshot folder, copied _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SYSTEM, _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SECURITY, _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SAM, _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SOFTWARE, and _REGISTRY_MACHINE_.DEFAULT to the Config folder, renaming them to their respective hive names. The machine is working fine now. I plan to run error checking on it.

    Thanks for the help. Bill

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