There are a lot of Windows XP owners discovering that when they turn on their computer they just get the message - windows/system32/config/system file is missing or damaged. This is a problem that seems to be affecting many Window XP owners in many countries throughout the world.
The other day we received a computer for repair that was running Windows XP and exhibiting the same problem. When It was switched on, it would not even boot past a screen that said:
Windows/system32/config/system file is missing or damaged
The PC would not boot into safe mode and would not even provide access to the BIOS. If that wasn't bad enough, the CD drive failed to read a Windows XP disc and a professional diagnostic disc.
A quick Google search showed just how much of a problem computer users are facing. It seems that on most of the affected computers the entire c:\windows\system32\config folder had gone missing all together.
Since the config folder stores important information about profiles, applications and registry settings, any computer with this problem will not normally boot and so you cannot use your Windows CD to log into the recovery console to attempt a repair (as the windows error message suggests).
One of the posts I read said “There is no known remedy for this problem, other than backing up your data, reinstalling Windows XP, and then copying your data back over and reinstalling your applications. Even after that, it is entirely possible that your computer will simply crash again later with the same problem”.
It seems that some computer owners can get to a DOS command prompt. If you can, you should try the following steps.
Of course you will have to do this from a full Windows XP CD and not a recovery disc provided by your computers manufacturer (so you will need a working CD/DVD drive or floppy disc - you can get a set of Windows XP start up floppy discs from Microsoft to get your CD/DVD drives working).
Once you have got to a command prompt you need to run chkdsk /r. This process looks for bad sectors on your hard drive and tries to recover data from any bad sectors it finds. It will also automatically run chkdsk /p along with the chkdsk /r.
After chkdsk /r has finished its scan you should then run fixboot. When this is complete type exit and hit enter. Your computer should now reboot.
As soon as it starts to reboot you’ll need to hit the F8 key to get into the Windows start-up menu. Choose ‘last known good configuration’ and hit enter. Your computer should now start up without any error messages popping up.
If for some reason that doesn’t work, you will have to fix your windows\system32 files by using a command prompt and your system restore points (assuming you have some). Rather than cover this here, I found this page very useful if you want to try this for yourself - www.icompute.info/System_restore_from_xp_cd.htm
NOTE: To find out more about chkdsk see our article - Chkdsk - How to use it.
For similar boot problems with Windows Vista or Windows 7 see this Microsoft Support Article - http://support.microsoft.com/kb/927392
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