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Recovery console assistance needed

2254 Views 4 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  OldGrayGary
I have an IBM T40P laptop running XP SP2 that is current. I was in the process of cleaning up and reorganizing my data among my 3 machines and storage devices. I moved most of my data off of the machine and was preparing to do a defrag. I thought that I should do a cleanup prior to the defrag so I ran registry first aid which I do on a regular basis.

I also wanted to run Spybot S&D and was having a problem with it so I decided to reboot and start again. When I rebooted, I got the message "Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \windows\system32\config\system.

I went to the IBM product recovery CD and the only option that I seemed to have was to reformat the drive and reinstall XP. Since all of my financial info is in quickbooks, I deferred on this point. I had a reinstallation disk that is for XPSP1a from one of my Dell machines. I inserted this and was able to boot through and go to the recovery console. When it asked for the administrator password, I left it blank and was able to get to the hard drive via dos commands. I followed the procedure in Microsoft forum and was able to copy the initial files into the config folder.

I was able to then boot windows and tried to restore to a previous backup registry. I used RFA to do this. When I restarted windows, it launched OK but most of my applications did not run correctly or came up unregistered. I also was unable to have any network access, both wireless and hard wired.

I decided to try and return the origional software file and that seemed to help, but still no network. I decided to try and return the system file, and when I rebooted, I was back to the could not start problem.

I figured OK, I would just go back to the recovery console and copy the system file back and try something else, maybe try and restore to an early date.

Now, however, when I launch the recovery console and it asks for the administrator password, I just hit the enter key like before, but now it says it is not a valid password. Sooo, two questions
1) Is there any way around this so I can run windows and copy my needed files off, or
2) Can I install windows without reformating the drive? I know that I will probably need to reinstall the applications, but the files should remain intact.

Sorry for the long windedness, but I hoped that by explaining the entire process, it would be easer to give me some good advice.

Thanks for your help.

Bill Gaze
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Hi B.G.

The trouble you describe is due to using an OEM disk (from a different computer than the one being repaired) to try Registry repairs from the Recovery Console. OEM disks can have pre-setup accounts --- with passwords associated with them! From Microsoft:
"Warning Do not use the procedure that is described in this article if your computer has an OEM-installed operating system. The system hive on OEM installations creates passwords and user accounts that did not exist previously. If you use the procedure that is described in this article, you may not be able to log back into the recovery console to restore the original registry hives." Here's the article this quote comes from ---;en-us;307545

Can I assume that you've tried, but can no longer reach, Safe Mode? (...that you get the "cannot start" message before getting far enough to see the Boot Menu?) . . . if by some extraordinary stroke of luck you can reach Safe Mode, you can attempt a System Restore. But I imagine you won't be able to reach Safe Mode.

I'm not familiar with Registry First Aid, but it'd be nice if they had a bootable CD to restore their Registry backups from. Should they have overlooked that little detail --- perhaps the program is kind enough to place it's backups on removable media & in standard .reg format = if so, you could try using a tool like a Bart'sPE based "Ultimate Boot CD for Windows" & using the Registry repair tools on the CD to restore an RFA saved Registry. I've only created these tools with full-version XP Cds, though --- but you could have a look on their site --- --- and look at the "Registry Tools" section of the tools list to check out which tool might be able to help ---

Short of that, backing up your data & running the Recovery disk will work - but of course have all the legwork of reinstalling & updating everything.

Best of luck
. . . Gary

[P.S. ...backing up your data, I should mention, should still be possible by using another computer to help: you'd either slave your hard drive internally, or place it in an external hard drive enclosure]
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You mentioned you have 3 machines. Why not slave the non-bootable drive into a machine that is bootable? Copy the files you wish to keep. Run utilities such as chkdsk, blahblahblah while you're there.
Thanks for your responses.

I put the hard drive in an external drive case and was able to easily copy all of my required files. Unfortunately, I was unable to restore the registry correctly, (I am pretty tech savy when it comes to getting into trouble, but not sufficiently savy to get me out), so I went back and installed my OEM copy (and saved the $200 bucks for a new version). Unfortunately, lots of hours to do the reinstall of all of the apps.

Those registrys remain a deep mystery to me. Voodoo magic to maintain them correctly. All of the registry management apps that I have seen are still pretty complicated, and it seems that one needs to be a registry wizzard to use them.

Any recommendations on a registry management application?

I really appreciate your responses.

Happy New Year!!


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Hi again

Glad to hear that your system is up and running again. [Don't forget to visit Windows Update as soon as you can to get SP2 on there, and all the critical patches since then (there are about fifty by now, so it does take a fair amount of time)].

I tend to recommend disk-imaging tools nowadays, especially since so many have become quite good at incremental backups to use in tandem with a master image (you've probably heard about the Norton "Ghost" and Acronis "True Image" programs). The great advantage that these programs have is that they can restore everything - not just the Registry. They really do work much like a Time Machine. Since these premiums tools include their own bootable recovery environment, no Windows installation disks need to be involved in disaster recovery.

Another tactic used by an increasing number of folks is to have a "cloned" extra disk (since hard disks are fairly inexpensive) - and free cloning tools are available (XXClone gets a lot of mention). This can be both cost-effective & extremely fast = just plug in the clone, boot from it, and there you go [this gives you the option to clean up & save the problematic original disk at a more convenient time].

About the only reason I ever use a third-party Registry tool is for faulty or incomplete uninstalls - and for mopping up after I've cleaned my customer's hard drives of infections. I tend to use a simple tool like CCleaner - free, tiny, and effective ---

Another tool (available in both personal=free and pro=retail versions) that I've heard many good things about, but have yet to test myself, is a fairly new all-around tune-up & maintenance tool: "Advanced Windows Care" by IObit --- --- you can read reviews by users on that link. Our own J. Linderman has added this software to his recommended list --- --- This program does a great many things beside guard over the Registry, so read the documentation & reviews first: since it has so many tools, you want to make sure you don't have other programs that might conflict with its work.

Hope that 2007 finds you happily cruising the computer highway
. . . Gary
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