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XP OS - Two XP OS on one computer

Posted on 2013-12-17
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Last Modified: 2016-11-23
Last week, my Dell Inspiron 530, which has been working flawlessly since 2009, displayed the message "c:\windows\system32\config\system file is corrupt or missing."

After browsing the 'Net for information, I located my original Dell Operating System Disc (labeled Reinstallation CD, SP3) and was able to re-load the operating system completely and successfully, and even without affecting all my files!

The problem is that not being a full-blown technical wiz, I managed to install a DUPLICATE operating system. One is apparently the original on the C: drive and the other looks to be located on the H: drive, which must be a virtual (partition?) drive.

When I start the computer, a black and white screen appears asking me to select which of the 2 XP systems I want to run. If I select the first one listed, it starts up fine, but my desktop is blank--no shortcuts to my programs and files.

If I select the second one listed, I get the config error message and nada. It looks to me that the second one is the original, still containing the problem, and the first is the one I just newly installed.

Seems to me I don't need to have two systems on the same computer. But I am not sure what to do at this point to rectify the situation. What I'd like to do is to have one operating system that will use the desktop I previously had, along with all the programs.

I'm not sure what to do, can't find consistent information online and I am spooked at the thought of winging it on my own now and possibly screwing things up a lot!

Thanks for your time and attention. Can you help me get this straightened out?

Radio George
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Question by:RadioGeorge
11 Comments
 
LVL 11

Assisted Solution

by:BillBondo
BillBondo earned 65 total points
ID: 39725116
I would boot from the cd and run chkdsk /r. That should restore your original OS to a working order.
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LVL 70

Assisted Solution

by:garycase
garycase earned 300 total points
ID: 39725194
The FIRST thing you should do is be certain you have current backups of all of your data.

If there is AN?YTHING on the PC you're going to be upset a losing, then don't do ANYTHING else with regards to trying to reload the OS ... in fact, it was a major risk to do what you did already  in this regard if you don't have backup[s.

The best "next step" depends on whether or not you have the installation media for your programs.    The BEST thing to do at this point is a complete reload of the OS (which you already did, except you did it the wrong way and now have a non-standard drive letter).    But if that's not the case, then we can try a repair -- but FIRST be CERTAIN you have all your data backed up on another drive or another system.
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Author Comment

by:RadioGeorge
ID: 39725469
Bill--When I boot from the disk (using F12 to start the process), I get a blue screen with "Windows Setup." None of the choices listed afford any opportunity to run anything like chkdsk/r. Can you spell out what to do, or offer another route to get to where I can enter that?

Gary--yes, I do have a full current backup. Did that last week when I sensed trouble. Now--can you be more specific and tell me how to do a complete reload the "right" way so I don't wind up with a THIRD copy of XP on this computer, including how to get rid of the duplicate I created earlier that prompted my posting?
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LVL 70

Assisted Solution

by:garycase
garycase earned 300 total points
ID: 39725509
As long as you have the installation media for your programs (i.e. any programs you use that aren't part of Windows ... e.g. Word, Excel, etc.), then the best thing to do is a complete new install -- wipe the disk and reinstall XP.

To do that, you boot to the XP installation media (as you did before); but when you're presented with the option of where to install it, you first DELETE all of the current paritions (It will warn you and require some specific key presses to do these deletions - but you want to delete them ALL).    Then you install to the unallocated space ... and it will now be the only OS on the drive.     Since the drive wasn't re-initialized, you may need to update the BOOT.INI file after you've got it installed to remove incorrect references to the old OS's ... but wait until you're running a new install before worrying about that.

Note that this will ERASE ALL OF YOUR CURRENT DATA from the drive -- so be CERTAIN you indeed have backups of everything you need [Your data; your internet favorites; your address book; any e-mail storage folders you may need to save; etc.].    If you have any questions r.e. how to save any of those things, just ask.
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LVL 70

Assisted Solution

by:garycase
garycase earned 300 total points
ID: 39725510
... by the way, r.e. "... yes, I do have a full current backup. Did that last week when I sensed trouble "  ==> You need to change your backup strategy !!    You should ALWAYS have current backups ... not just when you "sense trouble" :-)     Disk drives can (and do) fail ... often with no notice !!
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Author Comment

by:RadioGeorge
ID: 39725672
OK, now we have an interesting twist in the plot....

I was somehow able to get chkdsk /r to run for the C: drive and in the 4th of its 5 stages, it displayed:

Windows replaced bad clusters in file 16566 of name \WINDOWS\system32\config\system.

I am guessing that this means that as part of the chkdsk process, the "missing or corrupted" config file was repaired or replaced--is that right?

And if it was fixed, does this mean that the original C: system partition (or whatever) is OK and that I can delete the H: installation and the third installation, too?

...and how can I delete them if that's the next course of action??
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Author Comment

by:RadioGeorge
ID: 39725702
OOPS!

The chkdsk run finally finished and I tried re-booting. The black and white system screen popped up and I selected the first of the two systems that appeared, and it booted fine. Then I tried the second and the same darn config error message showed.

Looks like a total and complete reboot is going to be the solution---right?
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LVL 91

Assisted Solution

by:nobus
nobus earned 70 total points
ID: 39725974
i would first repair the original XP setup - here's how :  windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt:  \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/307545
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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
 _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SYSTEM
5. Rename _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SYSTEM to SYSTEM
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

http://www.nu2.nu/pebuilder/       BARTPE
http://www.ubcd4win.com/            UBCD4WIN

when this works again, you can remove the 2nd install from the list by running msconfig from the startup tab

then delete the  partition on which it resides
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LVL 14

Assisted Solution

by:Geisrud
Geisrud earned 65 total points
ID: 39727353
I wonder if the boot.ini file doesn't just have a reference to the old installation?  I've seen this after doing a clean re-installation on Dell machines.

    Right-click My Computer, and then click Properties.
    -or-
    Click Start, click Run, type sysdm.cpl, and then click OK.
    On the Advanced tab, click Settings under Startup and Recovery.
    Under System Startup, click Edit.
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LVL 70

Accepted Solution

by:
garycase earned 300 total points
ID: 39727429
With a complete set of backups available, your best bet by far is to just wipe the system and do a clean reload.    This will not only get rid of the extraneous partitions; but will also have the OS install on C: => not an absolute necessity, but there are still some applications that can be "confused" by non-standard drive letters for the OS partition.
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Author Closing Comment

by:RadioGeorge
ID: 39736600
Thanks to all. What I learned was that the manufacturer's info was not direct or clear, the installation programs on the disk don't match up with standard operating procedure, and that  most seemingly simple and direct technical explanation are either beyond the average user or can't be applied easily thanks to the nuances of the manufacturer's installation disks--too many assumptions on all levels. The 100% clean wipe was the answer--and even THAT had to be done three times in order to comply with the unexplained proper sequence that was required.
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