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  1. #1
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    XP: Corrupt system file... NO BOOT! HELP!

    So I go and power up my system and I get this heart-stopping message:

    "Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt:
    \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM

    You can attempt to repair this file by starting Windows Setup using the original Setup CD-ROM.
    Select 'r' at the first screen to start repair."

    So I proceed as instructed, get to the options screen and I press the 'r' key to enter the recovery console. When it asks what installation I'd like to log into, I select #1, C:\WINDOWS (the only option). After pressing enter it just gives me a C:\WINDOWS prompt, no action taking place otherwise.

    The other thing I tried is to F2 into the ASR console. Then it asks me to insert my ASR diskette, which like 99% of other unassuming users, I don't have. (This will change)

    Is there an way I can fix this without reformatting?? Is there some sort of generic ASR disk out there? Your help is much appreciated!

    -rheteric

  2. #2
    Ultimate Member twistedbrntucker's Avatar
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    Possibly bad RAM.Try swapping for another stick or have the stick(s) tested.

  3. #3
    Senior Member bailey's Avatar
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    boot to the cd and do a install repaire.
    it will fix all the system files and you will not loose any data.
    you will need to reinstall sp1 and any other updates you had.

  4. #4
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    Originally posted by bailey
    boot to the cd and do a install repaire.
    it will fix all the system files and you will not loose any data.
    you will need to reinstall sp1 and any other updates you had.
    Isn't this what I attempted by pressing the 'r' option at the install options screen?

  5. #5
    Senior Member bailey's Avatar
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    no I don't think it the same thing.
    like you first installed it
    seet bios to boot from the cd.
    and do a install, it will detect that ita already installed and ask if you want to do a repaire install
    this is differant as it won't take you to a command line.

    it will redo the install and not change the data

  6. #6
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    Thanks Bailey, I'll try that in a moment.
    I also did some other stuff that ruled out the RAM as being the problem.

  7. #7
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    yeah..you dont do the first "r"..as you say, that is just the repair console....you choose to install windows instead and it will do "searching for prev versions" blah blah..it will find your current install...then you will have more options...one of them will be to repair the current install.
    "Even a fool is thought to be wise if he is silent"

  8. #8
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    More bad news..... I tried the re-install trick and it says, "setup cannot find a previous version of windows installed on the system." Nor does it find a Windows XP campatible partition, so it wants me to reformat/repartition.

    Short of doing a reformat, do you think it's possible to install XP on another hard drive and retrieve my important docs/files from the original drive in a slave mode?

  9. #9
    Member TM12's Avatar
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    To answer your last question, you should be able to access your data with the drive set as Slave. But, it looks like the main problem is a corrupted registry entry. Hard to say why - mem, ps, or hd but it happened. If you want to fix it you'll have to take the long route to restore your system to an earlier restore point. You'll need 7 floppies, 6 for the boot disks and 1 for the batch files. You need to search the MS Knowledge Base for the exact error, I don't have the article numbers here at home. Then you'll need to find the link within the correct article that will let you download a file to create the boot floppies. They're different for XP and XP w/SP1. Follow the instructions to the letter. I can't explain it better except to add make sure you know how to execute a batch file, i.e. at a command prompt type - Batch "filename.ext". You'll understand after you read the article. I've had to do it twice on office computers. Hope it helps.

  10. #10
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    TM12,
    I am going to search the Knowledge Base; but first, out of curiosity, are these the floppies that I am going to need?
    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/d...7-4FED408EA73F

    I found this link on another TechIMO thread located here: How do you make a winxp System recovery disk?

    Thanks!!!!

  11. #11
    Ultimate Member rpertusio's Avatar
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    Before you try anything else, you may just have a corrupt MBR.

    *IF you only have one partition on the drive, then go ahead and follow these instructions on how to reset the MBR*
    (If you have more than one partition, do NOT do this)

    Boot to the XP CD (or floppy), and choose the FIRST "r" (not the 'repair install' as mentioned in other posts)

    Once you get to the prompt, type the following:
    FIXMBR
    (this will restore a standard Master Boot Record (MBR) to your drive)

    If that doesnt work, then go back in to the Recovery Console again, and try:
    FIXBOOT
    (This will repair the Boot Sector of your drive)

    - rp

  12. #12
    Ultimate Member rpertusio's Avatar
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    One other 'solution' I thought of:

    You can mount the drive as 'slave' as you and TM12 have suggested. On the drive, you should find the "\windows\system32\config\system" file. Make a backup copy of it.

    Then, you'll want to visit the "\Windows\Repair" folder. There may be a good (but maybe older) copy of the corrupt registry file ('system'). Copy that one into the \system32\config\ folder, and you may be able to boot. This should work, if the problem is soley a registry error.

    And yes, those are the correct floppy disks. If you have a CD, that will work too (and faster).

    - rp

  13. #13
    Member TM12's Avatar
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    That's interesting... The articles that we used just a couple of weeks ago appear to be gone. The only one I see that matches is: http://support.microsoft.com/default...b;en-us;823614 which seems to be the one rpertusio is refering to. If it works, great. It's a WHOLE lot simpler than the way we had to do it. Also interesting is the fact that it doesn't provide the link to the floppies. I don't remember the exact reason we ended up using the floppies but I think it was because the Recovery Console is not available if it wasn't previously installed from Windows.

    rpertusio - a bad MBR or boot.ini wouldn't have let it get that far. Also, I'm the most familiar with XP Pro which requires the administrator password to access the Recovery Console. Our recent problem involved, of all things, a damaged security branch of the registry and we couldn't login to the RC. The KB article and the floppies saved us somehow. I'll get the articles from work tomorrow if I can and for entertainment you can see what the long way looks like. It basically involves resetting the registry to when the OS was installed, including, it's important to note, the original admin PW. And, then Restoring to the most recent Restore Point. It's worked for us both times it needed to but if the new way works that's even better.

  14. #14
    Ultimate Member rpertusio's Avatar
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    Originally posted by TM12
    rpertusio - a bad MBR or boot.ini wouldn't have let it get that far.
    It can, depending if it is a filesystem problem or a corrupt registry. If a corrupt registry, you can still log on, provided that windows has enough to authenticate you as an admin. If you recall, the account information is actually stored in the SAM file. (And furthermore, the Syskey protection is derived from the 'system' file.)

    I know it can get that far. I have been troubleshooting a problem lately, which corrupts the MBR. Only once (of the ~50 times I've used the recovery console) did it give me a bluescreen error.

    In my case, the corrupt MBR would only corrupt SOME files, say... any file/folder starting with the letter "J" and onward. Thus, some system files were unblemished, but the system couldn't 'see' the registry, causing windows to spew the 'missing or corrupt' messages.

    I could boot to a CD (windows Preinstallation environment) and see 1/3 of the files on the hard drive. Issuing the 'fixmbr' command would fix the master boot record, and all files would show up again.

    Furthermore, for future reference, the command console can be installed to the hard drive by running the XP setup with /cmdcons switch (installs to c:\cmdcons). Otherwise, booting to a CD (or floppies) will be the only way to get to the recovery console, which is what TM12 mentioned.

    - - -
    [Edit:]
    TM12, I didn't know that Microsoft article existed until you pointed it out. Looks like it was just created on November 11, 2003. I thought that was an undocumented way to fix it. Thanks for the link!

    - rp
    Last edited by rpertusio; December 30th, 2003 at 05:21 PM.

  15. #15
    Member TM12's Avatar
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    rheteric, if you'll pardon me I have a question for rp.

    rp,

    Did you find out what caused the MBR corruption? The only thing close that I've experienced was rather frequent corruption of the Windows product activation file and other infrequent mischief that I eventually traced to a bad harddrive. In my experience it's always been that it either booted or it didn't. Also, I've never experienced a blue screen with the RC. I'm not that up on the security aspects, I just know we couldn't log on because the security branch was damaged. Couldn't even change the admin PW with the "master key" ERD.

  16. #16
    Member TM12's Avatar
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    rp - if you weren't aware of that article then you definitely know your stuff. I hope I can show you the other ones, it was time-consuming and painful but it worked great.

  17. #17
    Ultimate Member rpertusio's Avatar
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    Originally posted by TM12
    Did you find out what caused the MBR corruption?
    I still have the problem. It is most likely caused by a Serial ATA controller, drivers, or motherboard (A7N8X Dlx) and the way it handles Maxtor drives in particular. At some point, I will write a post after I have given up on my own troubleshooting. The hard drive itself is flawless.

    Other causes of MBR are often seen when abrupt power changes (or even power off without warning) cause the write cache on the drive to be purged (meaning, any data about to be written to the disk was lost, and gone forever.) Simply disable write caching on any hard drives to protect against this. (Write caching typically increases disk performance and is enabled by default.)

    - rp

  18. #18
    Member TM12's Avatar
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    I wouldn't rule out the Maxtor too quickly. My problem involved a WD and no matter what I test I ran, including WD's tools, I couldn't get it to hiccup. Then finally, almost 6 months later it burped as I was writing zeros to get rid of some Linux issues and I finally had a code for an RMA. Haven't had a problem yet with it's replacement.

  19. #19
    Ultimate Member rpertusio's Avatar
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    Originally posted by TM12
    I wouldn't rule out the Maxtor too quickly.
    Drive works fine on the PATA channel. Not on the SATA channel. If I post a thread, I'll give you a link, rather than eat up rheteric's thread.

    - rp

  20. #20
    Member TM12's Avatar
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    Amen

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