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I'm hoping that someone will be able to help me out. I'm in desperate need to recover my data, and I really do not know where to begin.

This is my old PC (HP Pavilion M7480N media center, Windows XP).

I was restoring my computer to an earlier point, and in middle of the process I accidentally unplugged the computer. When I tried to turn it back on this is what it reads:

Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt:
<Windows root>\system32\hal.dll.
Please re-install a copy of the above file.

Here's also a quick video which I uploaded to youtube.

What, if anything, can I do? What is my next step? I don't have a Windows XP CD. This computer didn't come with it.

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Are you sure about that error message? I'd expect something like "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.". – Steve314 Aug 5 '11 at 0:31

That's basically the file that tells Windows how to load your hardware. If that's gone, you're gonna have to borrow someone else's XP CD.

Just so you know, I've seen that problem about 10 times, and only once was it JUST the one file that needs replacing. I would recommend an upgrade to a more modern OS, or else a re-installation of XP. Make sure you get the same version as before though

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You need an XP CD for the right version of XP (Home, Pro etc) and the right service pack. I don't know how it works out if you installed a service pack separate from your original disk, but you probably need a new XP disk with the service pack you're running now. If you don't have an install disk, you should have a recovery disk - though as with reinstalling, that means all your data disappears. A backup disk image may be a good idea - that image should be readable even if the O/S on it is corrupt. – Steve314 Aug 5 '11 at 0:42
I have done repair installs with our XP Pro/Home SP3 CDs many times. Even if we know the customer only had SP1/2/0, it still installed properly (Yes, we have customers with XP SP0.. And Win2K, and even Windows 98) – Canadian Luke Aug 5 '11 at 16:01
I still have my Win3.11 floppies somewhere, and one of my remaining XP CDs is "SP0" as you call it. I'm not that surprised the way around you describe, but don't see how you could restore an SP3 update of a DLL from an SP0 CD. I guess that means "use at least the same SP as you have installed - SP3 will handle any current XP" (I doubt they'll release an SP4). – Steve314 Aug 5 '11 at 22:46
Yes, you're right Steve. I wasn't even thinking that, since our XP CDs are all slipstreamed with SP3 – Canadian Luke Aug 6 '11 at 21:51

80% of the time this is file system corruption, or possibly a bad sector on the hard drive.

Run a chkdsk from recovery console.

Boot from a XP install CD, choose R to load the recovery console.

At the command prompt type

chkdsk /r

Hit enter and let it run to completion, when it is done see if it will boot, if it does, defragment the hard drive.

Borrow a XP CD from a friend, relative or co-worker.

Or make your own bootable XP recovery console CD, download this package to an empty folder of choice, unzip the contents then read the "readme.htm" file, it will tell you to go to a page and download this package for XP Pro, or this one for XP Home to the same folder and then rename the file, follow the rest of the instructions to make your own XP Recovery console boot CD.

Source of information

If you get it booting again, install the recovery console to the hard drive, then you won't have to look for the disc when trouble rears its ugly head. This will require the real XP install CD to get it done.

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If you just want to recover your data, and have:

  • A spare (blank) CD
  • A spare removable storage medium (Flash drive, external HDD, heck even a floppy if you want to take it in lots of small steps)
  • A computer capable of burning to that CD
  • The ability to download approx. 700mb

I'd recommend you grab a Linux live CD image and use that. That will allow you to run a whole OS off the CD and copy your files. For data recovery, any newer distro (Linux variant) would work, but I've personally used Knoppix. It doesn't really matter, as long as the distro you choose has NTFS read support.

Alternatively, if you still want to use the computer and don't want to reinstall Windows, don't have an XP CD and do have the above requirements, and the other suggestions on this page don't work for you... if you have another XP installation of the same service pack installed on another computer, you can boot the computer using the Linux CD and transfer those missing/corrupt files via the removable media.

I'd recommend not trying to use your network, Linux and Windows don't tend to play nice.

No, I don't use Linux myself, but it is nice for recovery. There are also bootable Windows based solutions, such as Bart PE, but they can be more difficult to set up.

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I know it's an old thread but I just found the answer.

On my system (Dell) there are several disks, one of them has remnants of the old Windows installation and another one has current working Win installation. I thought as long as my active Win HD is on the 0 SATA connector I'm good, however it's not the case.

In BIOS there is settings for boot order where you can set to boot from CD or HD or whatever, but also, kind of hidden, there is setting for HD boot priority. That is from which HD it starts to boot. Those settings were messed up. as soon as I set my active WIN HD to be first- machine started booting up.

Hope this will help someone.

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