Can't boot- blue screen - c0000218 registry file failure

I've got a customer with a bizarre problem.  Windows XP Professional, SP3.  On boot (before login) it gets to a blue screen with an error

STOP: c0000218 {registry file failure}
The registry cannot load the hive (file): \systemroot\system32\config\software
or its log or alternate It is corrupt, absent, or not writable.

I've checked for viruses - it has Symantec corporate - as well as used Hitman Pro and checked the Hijackthis log - nothing odd as far as I can tell.  I tried loading registry from a backup - didn't make a difference.  The only way I could find to make it boot properly is to boot in safe mode and tell it to check the C: drive on next boot.  Whether or not I choose the comprehensive check (the second checkbox), it works fine after the chkdsk is complete.  The user can login to the network just fine, everything works.  Until she shuts down (e.g. for the night)... in the morning she turns it on and the blue screen is back.  If we repeat the "Safe mode, chkdsk, restart" process it will work again, but just until the next shutdown.

Yes, the nighttime shutdowns are normal - they're not killing the hard drive by turning off the power.  No, nothing new has been added to the machine lately.  It has been running fine for a few years, in the same spot, on the same network, with the same software.

Any ideas?
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Check her RAM with memtest86 and also chack to make sure the hard drive is not damaged.

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Rommel SultanCommented:
Try to check the hard drive for bad sectors.
Registry files corruption usually caused by a faulty HDD.

- Last resort, replaced the HDD
Take a look at buring one of these below tools (UBCD4WIN is ready to burn once it is downloaded). It gives you a Windows Graphical environment to make these changes... Or just slave the drive.....Bart's Preinstalled Environment (BartPE) bootable live windows CD/DVD to one of those utilites above, and go to the a43 Explorer utility. Navigate to the "C:\Windows\System32\Config" directory.Rename the following files....DO NOT DELETE THEM....Rename system to system.oldRename software to software.oldRename sam to sam.oldRename security to security.oldRename default to default.oldGo into the "System_Volume_Information" folder (if you get a "Access Denied", right click the folder and select the Security Tab, and once you highlight Everyone at the top, select "Full Control" in the bottom. )Select the "Restore Folder"Then you will see folders with RP50, RP51 etc... Look for the highest number, as it is the newest one. Go into that folder and copy the following files to the "C:\Windows\System32\Config" directory.registry_machine_systemregistry_machine_softwareregistry_machine_securityregistry_machine_samregistry_user_.defaultNow, go back to the "C:\Windows\System32\Config" directory.Remove the "registry_machine_" from the 5 files you just copied. Restart the machine, and remove the bootable disc you were using....If it boots successfully, go to "System Restore" in the Help menu, and do a full restore to a few days back.... This will ensure that all of the files are restored to the proper restore point, not just the registry files you fixed....Of course, if you just want to go through this process with just the SOFTWARE hive, you can do it by itself if you want. If you still get the error, or a Blue Screen of Death upon the next boot, simply go back and redo the other 4 files....
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rsultan is correc ton the drive problems. Probably evidenced by errors in the SYSTEM log in the Event Viewer, source DISK/NTFS......
If memory and hard disk are healthy, then you may have to try a windows repair and sometimes that doesn't repair the registry so you have to re-install/re-image.
manassehkatzAuthor Commented:
As far as using UBCD4WIN to restore the registry, I am quite familiar with that and that was one of the first things I did.  It worked but didn't help.  I'll look into other hard drive tests.  I did the Windows error checking (i.e. chdksk on reboot) one time with the full check (5 stages) and twice with the lesser check (3 stages) and in each case after completing that it booted up fine.

Oh yeah, forgot to mention...  I also tried NTREGOPT.  It got through the registry, but didn't compress a whole lot (can't remember exactly - saved a few percent).  But it didn't make a difference as far as booting.
What about the DISK errors, anything in the System Log?
manassehkatzAuthor Commented:
I don't recall much being in there - I'll have to check it again when I stop by.
Make sure to sort by the Source column.....
manassehkatzAuthor Commented:
It appears the problem was the hard drive.  No disk errors showed up in the logs, but I decided to try swapping drives anyway.  I put in a new (well, used but new to that computer) drive, used one of the UBCD4WIN tools to copy everything.  Then I booted with the new drive and got the same error - presumably because the last shutdown with the old drive caused trouble again and that bad info was copied to the new drive.  I did the chkdsk and booted up fine.  Have shut down and restarted several times since with no problems.
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Windows XP

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