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I am getting this error when trying to boot Windows XP:

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

It further instructs me to use the original Startup CD-ROM and select r to start repair.

Well, I did just that (using the original startup CD), but then it complains that it could not find any Windows on the hard drive.

This is weird, because from the same hard drive I can boot Windows 2000, which sees the Windows XP partition as drive I:, which seems healthy and contains all system files (it used to work, I don't know what happened to it), including \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM.

I found this Microsoft resource which explains in detail how to recover from a corrupted registry that prevents Windows XP from starting, but being able to select r from the Recovery Console is pre-requisite and, as I explained above, Microsoft's original startup CD can't let me proceed with selecting r.

Any idea how to recover from this, without having to do a complete re-install?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

1) Have a backup? If so, restore from the backup

2) The SYSTEM file may be corrupted. Try running a CHKDSK x: /f /r on the Windows XP partition from Windows 2000, or else CHKDSK x: /f /p from the XP Recovery Console (may need to repeat on the recovery console).

In my experience, it's about a 50/50 shot as to using the repair option on XP. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Best I can suggest is try

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Thanks, the CHKDSK x: /f /r from Windows 2000 worked. (repeating recovery console was futile, I am lucky that I had Windows 2000 on that computer in dual boot config). It turns out that the SYSTEM registry file was corrupt. All I had to do is find some way to fix it. – Eternal Learner Dec 22 '11 at 19:06
I had the same problem and was about to do the KB307545 when I read about the Recovery Console & CHKDSK tip ... I'm still stunned that my system is working again. – Martin Sep 25 '12 at 11:45
Glad it helped :-) – Canadian Luke Sep 25 '12 at 11:51

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