is there a way to upgrade to win 7 without being able to boot to existing OS?

I have a computer that has Win XP Home OEM 32bit on it. Not sure what happened, but it won't load windows. It gets the the loading screen with the windows logo and the status bar, sits for 20 seconds or so and shuts down... I've swapped RAM, with no luck.. Wanted to try a repair install, but it won't give me the repair option when I boot to the disk. If i press enter on the existing partition, it warns me an existing OS is loaded though.. I've tried using an XP home OEM and a retail disk. Also tried using a pro disk.. None of them gave me the option to repair..
I was going to upgrade it to Windows 7, but using the upgrade option requires you to run the disk from windows..
I do not want to do a fresh install as there are way too many programs and tons of Data that would need to be restored..
Any suggestions on booting into XP or is there a way to upgrade to win 7 without being logged into windows?
Who is Participating?
I wear a lot of hats...

"The solutions and answers provided on Experts Exchange have been extremely helpful to me over the last few years. I wear a lot of hats - Developer, Database Administrator, Help Desk, etc., so I know a lot of things but not a lot about one thing. Experts Exchange gives me answers from people who do know a lot about one thing, in a easy to use platform." -Todd S.

Neil RussellTechnical Development LeadCommented:
A windows 7 "Upgrade" is NOT an upgrade as you are thinking. It does a complete reinstall of the OS and you will need to reinstall any applications afterwards.

Experts Exchange Solution brought to you by

Your issues matter to us.

Facing a tech roadblock? Get the help and guidance you need from experienced professionals who care. Ask your question anytime, anywhere, with no hassle.

Start your 7-day free trial
First make sure you have a backup of the whole system then try the steps mentioned below.

Boot.ini might be corrupted.

Boot in recovery console and run this commands

bootcfg /rebuild


Manual system restore.

try the Paragon rescue kit :
it has several options for repairing the oS.

>>  It gets the the loading screen with the windows logo and the status bar, sits for 20 seconds or so and shuts down  <<  are you sure it is not overheating?

also - if the disk is ok (you can verify that by runnning the diag for your disk brand from the UBCD)  you can run a chkdsk on it, either when booted from the XP install cd into the repair mode, or by hooking the disk to a working system

Hardware diagnostic CD    UBCD
 i suggest the UBCD  to run some diags first - to be sure about the basics
go to the download page, scroll down to the mirror section, and  click on a mirror to start the download
Download the UBCD and make the cd   <<==on a WORKING PC, and boot the problem PC from it
Here 2 links, one to the general site, and a direct link to the download

since the downloaded file is an ISO file, you need to use an ISO burning tool
if you don't have that software, install cdburnerXP :

If you want also the Ram tested - run memtest86+ at least 1 full pass,  - you should have NO errors!
For disk Diagnostics run the disk diag for your disk brand (eg seagate diag for seagate drive)  from the HDD section -  long or advanced diag !  (runs at least for30 minutes)                        ultimate boot cd             download page
Become a Certified Penetration Testing Engineer

This CPTE Certified Penetration Testing Engineer course covers everything you need to know about becoming a Certified Penetration Testing Engineer. Career Path: Professional roles include Ethical Hackers, Security Consultants, System Administrators, and Chief Security Officers.

Only from vista you could do a real upgrade where settings and programs would be kept. So you would need to repair-install XP which is possible offline, then boot XP, upgrade to vista then upgrade to 7. Possible but very lengthy. Not recommended.
personally, i never used an upgrade -since you inherit all old problems
better invest time in a fresh install
BriPCAuthor Commented:
I just got back from out of town, will start working through comments in the morning, thank you!
i would backup - and go for a fresh install.

you could try this method to get it running :
windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt:  \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM
An easier way is to boot from a Bart PE CD (or UBCD4Win CD) and use the file manager for manipulating files. Here  the procedure :
1. rename c:\windows\system32\config\SYSTEM to c:\windows\system32\config\SYSTEM.bak
2. Navigate to the System Volume Information folder.
it contains some restore {GUID} folders such as "_restore{87BD3667-3246-476B-923F-F86E30B3E7F8}".
The restore points are in  folders starting with "RPx under this folder.
3. In such a folder, locate a Snapshot subfolder. This is an example of a folder path to the Snapshot folder:  C:\System Volume Information\_restore{D86480E3-73EF-47BC-A0EB-A81BE6EE3ED8}\RP1\Snapshot
4. From the Snapshot folder, copy the following file to the c:\windows\system32\config folder
6. Exit Bart PE, reboot and test

Use a fairly recent restore point from at least a day or two prior to problem occurring .

** you can add the other hives also with this procedure       BARTPE            UBCD4WIN
BriPCAuthor Commented:
This is the solution that i ended up using, tried the others, but gave up and did a fresh install..
Well... just for the records: your question wasn't "what should I do?" but "is there a way to upgrade to win 7 without being able to boot to existing OS?", which I answered.
Next time please consider to split points.
If you have problems starting the repair installation (which has always worked for me, let's say I did this 20 times at least), the reason might be that you cannot use a disk with service pack level lower than that of your installed xp.
I agree.
Neil RussellTechnical Development LeadCommented:
And as I stated an "upgrade" is not an upgrade in the normal sense. It does a fresh install but copies user data and settings where it can.
i did not only suggest the fresh install - but also why.
maybe best BriPC  to return and have his say?
It's more than this solution.Get answers and train to solve all your tech problems - anytime, anywhere.Try it for free Edge Out The Competitionfor your dream job with proven skills and certifications.Get started today Stand Outas the employee with proven skills.Start learning today for free Move Your Career Forwardwith certification training in the latest technologies.Start your trial today
Microsoft Legacy OS

From novice to tech pro — start learning today.