Wow, I've never seen anything like this. A lot has happened here, and I'm going to try my best to walk everyone through what I've already done. In short, my computer was working perfectly fine one evening, and then the next time I turned it on it suddenly seemed to have corrupt file issues. Here's the deal:
I last used my computer successfully just a little after midnight on 10/16/08. Nothing usual occured during this usage that I can remember, and I don't recall any issues with it shutting down. It MIGHT have done a Windows update, but I don't remember that specifically either. Just the same, the next time I turned it on, it didn't even make it to the Windows XP splash-screen. Instead, I got this error message:
"Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: C:\windows\system32\hal.dl
l. Please re-install a copy of the above file."
Naturally, I jumped on our other computer and started searching the net for this issue. I came across this site: http://pcsupport.about.com/od/findbyerrormessage/a/missinghaldll.htm
, and proceeded to go through the steps. It definitely wasn't a one-time fluke, and the BIOS boot sequence was fine. I could not boot into Safe Mode because the computer wouldn't get far enough to give me that option. Ultimately, I did get go into the Recovery Console and ran all of the applicable commands (bootcfg /rebuild, fixboot, and chkdsk). Eventually, I replaced the hal.dll file with the one on my Windows CD, and that got rid of this error.
After that, I received a similar error having to do with ntoskrnl.exe. I took care of this in a similar manner, and I also recall fixing a boot.ini error along the way (probably through the Recover Console commands I used).
After doing all of this, the computer got to the point where the gray boxes gradually become a single bar across the screen from left to right (before you would typically see the splash-screen). At that point, underneathe the unfinished bar/boxes, a different error message showed up:
"Windows XP could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \ WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SY
I went to a few sites that detailed several steps to take to fix this issue. One was http://support.microsoft.com/kb/307545
, but the one I followed primarily was http://webcast.broadcastnewsroom.com/articles/viewarticle.jsp?id=8658
. I performed all of the steps to backup the original startup files (system, software, sam, security, and default), delete the old ones, and copy over the files from the repair directory. This was supposed to get me back into Windows so that I could do a system restore, but this never happened. Instead, Windows continued to hang up and never got me any further.
Obviously, this was a real problem, as this particular issue wasn't covered in any of the instructions I found. I tried restoring my backup files and got the same error as before. I tried each repair startup file one at a time, and still no real difference. At some point, I recall that the error might have shifted to \config\software instead of system, but it got me no further to a solution.
I did notice that replacing the system startup file made another minor and seemingly insignificant difference, which I'm only noting here in case one of you gurus see a pattern. When using my original system file, the Recovery Console did not ask for an administration password. When using the system file from the repair directory, it did. Other than that, I got no further. Windows startup would either lock on the gray bar or give an error message.
At that point, I wanted to do a repair installation using my Windows CD. So, I proceeded down that path, until I got to the screen where you should be able to press "R" to do a repair installation. The option wasn't even there! I found an EE solution on the matter (http://www.experts-exchange.com/OS/Microsoft_Operating_Systems/Windows/XP/Q_21880331.html
) and copied over the ntldr and ntdetect.com files. No effect. This was using my original start files, so I switched back to the repair files and tried again. The repair option appeared. I felt very funny about trying to do a repair installation with the different startup files in place, but I had no choice. As you could have guessed by now, I have STRONGLY been trying to avoid doing a full reinstallation.
The repair installation continued and seemed to be going okay. Then, at some point, a window popped up asking for a file. Suddenly, I realized that my keyboard and mouse were not responding at all. I checked the connections for both (which are PS/2). They were fine, of course, as I had been using the keyboard in the Recovery Console and in selecting the Windows installation option with no problems up to this point.
Flustered as ever, I started looking for alternate solutions. I found another EE solution that involved copying over startup files from within the recovery folders themselves (http://www.experts-exchange.com/OS/Microsoft_Operating_Systems/Windows/XP/Q_22000853.html
). That sounded like a great idea to me, so I went back to the Recovery Console and started digging in. I found lots of those RP folders, each representing a different restore point. I noticed that the most recent one was dated 10/16/08 12:04am and recalled that this was pretty much around the last time I used the computer like normal. So, I went a folder or two back and restored those files, knowing that I had booted up with no problems on those days.
I attempted to start into Windows and, for the first time, I saw the splash-screen! My hopes were up at this point, but I quickly noted how slowly the system was running. Eventually, as I recall, I got as far as seeing a black screen with my mouse cursor in the middle...and that was it. I left it there for a good long while, and still nothing. The mouse wouldn't move, and the keyboard would not respond (Num Lock light would not go off, for instance).
I did more Internet searches and found a page that pointed to the mouse and keyboard drivers (http://forums.techguy.org/windows-nt-2000-xp/696794-repair-install-xp-no-mouse.html
). At the bottom of the forum, someone lists out the PS/2 keyboard and mouse drivers: windows\drivers\i8042prt.s
ys, kbdclass.sys, and mouclass.sys.
At this point, it dawned on me that I had an old, still working hard drive that I had replaced several months back just because the drive was over 5 years old and I wanted to be safe. I had a contact from an IT company mirror the old drive onto my new, larger one so that all of the programs and configurations would be there (and yes, it worked just fine after a bit of tweaking and continued as such for months). My point: the old drive was still perfectly configured for the hardware on this computer, so I booted up on this drive, got into Windows with no problems at all, and copied over those keyboard and mouse driver files to my newer, problem drive (which I had connected as a slave and was listing all files/folders just fine under Windows).
I made a couple of interesting observations. For one, the files on the newer drive were OLDER than the files on my old drive (something like 2001 vs. 2004). Curious, I looked at the properties for the windows\system32\drivers folders on both drives and saw that my old drive had about 2 or 3 MORE files in there than my newer drive.
After this, I switched the drives back and tried again. STILL the keyboard and mouse didn't work! I tried to go back into the repair installation (again, this is now working with old startup files from a time when the computer started normally), and still had the problem where it would ask for a file and the keyboard/mouse would not respond.
For the heck of it, I tried to boot into Windows again normally and noticed that I was getting boot options, because the installation had been interrupted, and the system was equating this to an incomplete startup of Windows. I tried going into Safe Mode and noticed that the system was hanging up at a file called alim1541.sys. I went back into my old drive and copied this file over. Safe Mode got passed this file and into the black screen with just the cursor and the words "Safe Mode" in every corner. A dialog box came up stating that installation could not continue in Safe Mode and that the computer needed to be restarted normally. Well, the keyboard/mouse STILL weren't working, so I reset the thing and let it start like normal. Now it wants to go right back into its repair installation, but it always gets to the point where it asks for a file (globalroot\device\cdrom\i
386). Still, I can't do anything because of the keyboard/mouse situation.
This is where I'm at -- totally stumped! Before mucking this up any more, I figured I would at least check with the experts here. My next thought has been to go back into my old drive and copy EVERYTHING from the drivers folder that was either newer or simply nonexistent to the newer drive, because of my previous observation about the files there. I have a feeling, though, that there could be issues beyond this one folder. So, I'm also considering copying the startup files from my old drive to see if that has an effect. But, first, it's time to get some other opinions.
There you go, guys. This is a tricky one. Do I have any leg to stand on? Have I totally screwed this thing up by running repair installations that couldn't finish? I really hope someone can help me on this one.
Thanks in advance to everyone...even just for reading this far!