How to repair your XP installation - Updated by TE7 - 4/28/07 10:12 PM
If you ever get to the point where you choose to, have to, or need to, repair your XP installation (maybe Windows is behaving strangely, or certain system functions aren't performing correctly, or maybe not at all), then the following information could help you, because there could be unknown obstacles.
As a note, repairing your Windows installation preserves all of your programs, settings, folders, and My Documents, as opposed to formatting your hard drive for a clean install (formatting your hard drive and re-installing).
The problem is that to repair your Windows Installation, your XP CD needs to be the same, or newer, SERVICE PACK (SP1 or SP2) as your Windows installation. If, for example, your XP CD is just plain XP, or XP SP1, and your installation is SP2 (you've updated to SP2 after your initial installation), then when you try to repair your installation (by booting from the CD and choosing to REPAIR YOUR WINDOWS INSTALLATION), it won't let you. It will say that your Windows installation is newer than the CD version, and you can't proceed.
If this is the case, then you can still repair your installation with the following steps:
1) I suggest uninstalling Internet Explorer 7 and Windows Media Player 10 or 11, if you have them (Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs). The reason is that when you re-install XP, it re-installs Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player to their original versions (whichever is on the CD), and the repair gets confused with the updated versions already installed on your system. Remember, this is a repair, not a clean install of XP. You can update these programs later once your repair of XP is done. I did a repair on my system where these newer programs provided problems for me.
Also, if you use the MSN browser, it's best to uninstall MSN (Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs) before your repair for the same reason. You can re-install later. I recommend having an MSN CD handy for that purpose. If, not the repair process re-installs MSN, which you can later update to the newest version online. Note: the MSN version on your XP CD will let you go online, and you will be able to access your email, but not your MSN Explorer settings until you go the Member Center and update to the newest version of MSN (version 9.5, which can also be ordered on CD, through the Member Center).
Here's the link for Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP SP2:
Here's the link for Windows Media Player 11:
2) Uninstall SP2 (Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs). Again, if you have an XP SP2 CD, you don't have to do this. If Add/Remove programs doesn't work, there are other ways to remove SP2. Here's the link to a Microsoft page explaining how to do them:
YOU MUST RESTART YOUR COMPUTER FOR THE SP2 UNINSTALL TO TAKE EFFECT.
3) Put your XP CD in your CD drive and boot from it.
4) Choose to REPAIR YOUR WINDOWS INSTALLATION (all of your programs, settings, folders, and My Documents will be preserved).
5) Once your repair is done, if you have Automatic Updates enabled (Control Panel/Security Center), then once you're connected to the Internet, then SP2 will download automatically. This is OK for high speed Internet access (because the SP2 download is over 100 MB in size). You can also order the SP2 CD from Microsoft, and install the CD prior to connecting to the Internet. Here's the link:
6) If you have dial-up, and decide to download SP2 (not advisable with dial-up), then it is recommended to set Automatic Updates to Notify only. Then once your online, and willing to dedicate your PC for several hours of download (assuming you don't have toll charges on your dial-up account), you can go to the Windows Update site, and initiate the SP2 download (just by doing Windows Update). The link for Windows Update is below (you should bookmark this link):
7) Once you've updated to SP2, then go to Windows Update again to download all of the updates since SP2. Since some updates superceede others, you should go to Windows Update 2 or 3 times to make sure you get all of the updates. If your updates are set Notify Only, then Microsoft will notify you when updates need to be downloaded. An icon will appear in the notification area in the bottom right of the XP screen. When you you see the icon, just go to the bookmark you made above and do Windows Update. Then you're done with XP. I recommend setting Automatic Updates to Notify only for all home users, both the high speed and dial-up users. It let's you control when you want to update your XP installation.
If you have other Microsoft products that you will install, then once they're installed, then go to the Windows Update site, and install Microsoft Update. Then once online, you can choose Microsoft update from your Start Menu/All Programs. The Microsoft Update site will update XP as well as your other Microsoft products, if you want to do it all at he same time (which I don't recommend for your initial updates because the size of the download. It's probably best to do your XP updates first, and the Microsoft Update. Once you're done with the initial updates, just using Microsoft Update should be OK).
If you're on dial-up and have set Automatic Updates to Notify Only, then as an alternative you method you can go to the Microsoft Update site to update your other Microsoft products (link below); you should bookmark this link for future use:
Again, if you have an XP SP2 disc, you won't have to uninstall SP2. But you will have to do the updates again.
If you have high speed web access, the process is not daunting. But if you have dial-up, and you don't have a copy of SP2, then downloading SP2 with Windows Update can take several hours. Again, for dial-up, it is advisable to order the SP2 CD from Microsoft, and always have it on hand. The same for MSN dial-up users.
Again, for dial-up (which I have), I keep my Automatic Updates set to Notify Only. This lets you control when you want updates to be downloaded by just going to the Windows Update site, or Microsoft Update site, and initiating the downloads manually.
I've created this tip to help others new to the Windows XP repair process, since I had to learn it the hard way by myself. Hopefully this post will help someone.
Good luck with your XP repair.
NOTE: Below are two links that also give detailed instructions on repair of an XP installation (thanks to a reply by CNET forum moderator Jonah Jones to my original XP forum post).
- Thanks to TE7 for their contribution.