Looking for suggested XP boot fix without reinstalling OS

I was shipped a computer - XP PRO SP2 - DELL Dimension - from my employer in a different city in a different country. I set it up and it ran fine, but after running the updates and restarting, after about an hour it crawled to a stop, locking up. After letting it sit for a half hour to see if it would right itself, I powered it down and restarted.

Now when I try to restart it, I get a PCI.SYS is missing or corrupt warning. After some searching, I tried to run the recovery console, but get Access Denied when I try to access any folder, including the system WINDOWS folder, which documentation says should be accessible to an expand command.

I can reinstall the OS, but that entails losing a number of installed programs on it that would be difficult as the original disks are in storage and hard to access and I'd have to not only get them shipped here, but convince someone there to dig them out of storage.

I get caught in the trap of not being able to run the system to load the security snap in to give permissions to change the AllowAllPaths variable to true.

I have other computers, but they are all ati drives, and this is a sata machine. If I could do this, I could add a drive and then boot from that.

One thing that occurs to me is to create a partition using Diskpart and install a second OS on that, then use that to repair the one that is out - but I'm afraid this will totally futz the drive.

I'm looking for any suggestions short of a reinstall - I'll do that if I have to, but I'll potentially lose a number of valuable programs.  

Suggestions Appreciated
keithturnerAsked:
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PUNKYCommented:
You might try xp repair install:
http://www.michaelstevenstech.com/XPrepairinstall.htm 
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
I wouldn't bother with a repair install just yet.  Your error about PCI.SYS suggests to me that the file itself is corrupt and VERY POSSIBLY a bad sector has developed.  I would recommend doing the following:

1.  create and boot to a BartPE/Ultimate Boot CD for Windows.
2.  Run chkdsk C: /R off the BartPE disk to verify the disk doesn't have bad sectors (this will take a while - possibly measured in HOURS)
3.  Once that finishes, RENAME the existing PCI.SYS file and copy the PCI.SYS file from a back an existing $NTUninstall... folder ... or from another system.
4.  Reboot into Windows and see if that fixes it.

(By renaming the file, if it does occupy bad space, it still will and a new file should, hopefully, be copied to a good section of the disk.  Also, it IS possibile there is a hardware issue as well... PCI.SYS interacts with PCI hardware on the system, so if the file itself is fine, it COULD be another software error OR it could be a hardware error).
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nobusCommented:
could be some hardware came loos in the shipping - did you inspect / reseat all hardware?
that would be my first move
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keithturnerAuthor Commented:
1) nobus:
could be some hardware came loos in the shipping - did you inspect / reseat all hardware?
that would be my first move

reply) Reseated the drive and the RAM as bad RAM was one suggested problem. the fact that it ran for almost 2 hours before developing the problem makes me think it is something else

2) leew:
I wouldn't bother with a repair install just yet.  Your error about PCI.SYS suggests to me that the file itself is corrupt and VERY POSSIBLY a bad sector has developed.  I would recommend doing the following: (snip)

reply) I ran chkdsk /p after booting from the install disk. Is /R  and off the BartPE any different? I assume /R is repair.

Will this get around the permissions issue if I run off the BartPE disk?

Thanks to all for your replies.

Keith
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nobusCommented:
i was more thinking of cards coming loose - happens often
chkdsk info : http://vlaurie.com/computers2/Articles/chkdsk.htm
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keithturnerAuthor Commented:
I finally have it back up - I split the points as all answers were plausible and followed, but the BARTPE combined with a lot of internet research was the one that finally seems to have done it, combined with a repair install - the only thing not working is that after the repair install windows update seems to have stopped working - I was hoping that would fix any outstanding issues
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