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missing or corrupt windows\system32 files

by aberrant / August 8, 2008 3:19 AM PDT

On startup before windows loads I get a error screen that says...

Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM
You can attempt to repair this file by starting Windows Setup using the original Setup CD-ROM.
Select 'r' at the first screen to repair.

So first thing I tried was to load into safe mode, I tried safe mode options "boot into safe mode and last known config" niether of which worked. But it did provide this information of errors...

\WINDOWS\system 32\ntoskrnl.exe
\WINDOWS\system 32\hal.dll
\WINDOWS\system 32\BOOTVID.dll
\WINDOWS\system 32\config\system
\WINDOWS\system 32\config\system.log

I searched the internet and found these fixes from Microsoft

But when I tried to copy files they could not be found.

I also tried

BootCFG /Rebuild

Thus far nothing has worked system still comes up with orignal error messege.

My system and CD info is Microsoft Windows XP Professinal SP1 disc1(not an OEM version or just a recovery disc) with SP2 disc2 installed. This is a computer that I built about 4 years ago and has been running fine never seen these errors before.

Any information on what to do would be GREATLY APPRECIATED!!!

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But when I tried to copy files they could not be found.
by Edward ODaniel / August 8, 2008 4:27 AM PDT

Your post is a bit unclear. You indicate the error message you got which distinctly tells you to use the Recovery Console but you tell us you "immediately" tried safe mode.

You then list some files and mention finding the MS KB article that covers this.

I have NEVER seen any indication of the files not being found IF you carefully followed the instructions with no "short cuts" to -

5. At the Recovery Console command prompt, type the following lines, pressing ENTER after you type each line:
md tmp
copy c:\windows\system32\config\system c:\windows\tmp\system.bak
copy c:\windows\system32\config\software c:\windows\tmp\software.bak
copy c:\windows\system32\config\sam c:\windows\tmp\sam.bak
copy c:\windows\system32\config\security c:\windows\tmp\security.bak
copy c:\windows\system32\config\default c:\windows\tmp\default.bak

delete c:\windows\system32\config\system
delete c:\windows\system32\config\software
delete c:\windows\system32\config\sam
delete c:\windows\system32\config\security
delete c:\windows\system32\config\default

copy c:\windows\repair\system c:\windows\system32\config\system
copy c:\windows\repair\software c:\windows\system32\config\software
copy c:\windows\repair\sam c:\windows\system32\config\sam
copy c:\windows\repair\security c:\windows\system32\config\security
copy c:\windows\repair\default c:\windows\system32\config\default

6. Type exit to quit Recovery Console. Your computer will restart.

Note This procedure assumes that Windows XP is installed to the C:\Windows folder. Make sure to change C:\Windows to the appropriate windows_folder if it is a different location.

You MUST then continue with part two of the KB article.

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Your post is a bit unclear
by aberrant / August 8, 2008 6:24 AM PDT

I apologize if I was unclear, the reason I went into safe mode was to see if I could get any additional information about the problem. Which I did now I know the files that missing or corrupt. (Which are the ones that I have posted.) Then I proceeded to correct the problem outlined in the MS document. When I accurately typed in the first line that they suggested

md tmp
that worked, but when I accurately typed the second line

copy c:\windows\system32\config\system c:\windows\tmp\system.bak

Is when it told me that the file could not be found.

Yes windows in installed in the location of


I dont think that I should really move on to part two before I can get through part one
I have never heard of this problem before.
Hence why I am asking to see if there is something I am missing or have not tried

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If the MD command ...
by Edward ODaniel / August 8, 2008 1:01 PM PDT

(make directory) worked and the copy failed you are going to have to do a bit of digging.

Open the Recovery Console again and enter these commands -

CD \ - that should change your prompt from C:\Windows> to C:\>

Now type DIR /a:d - that will give you a wide listing of all directories on your C: partition.

Now read through the listing and change to the Windows directory being sure of the spelling by using the way it is spelled in the listing. The command to change directories is CD Windows if that is how the directory listing spells it.

Now the prompt should read C:\Windows> and again you want to issue a directory command dir /a:d - you should hopefully see System32 listed as well as Tmp. Type cd system32\config and you should have a prompt that reads c:\Windows\System32\Config>

Now type dir and you should see System, Sam, Software, Security, and Default listed along with a few others but those are the ones you MUST SEE.

Let us know if the 5 files are there and if you did not see the Tmp directory listed under Windows.

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I had one where...
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / August 8, 2008 11:22 PM PDT
In reply to: If the MD command ...

The owner stopped at the first error on the first copy. It was a simple problem where something had already deleted the file.

If only they had plowed ahead and completed all the steps in STEP 5 they would have avoided a 120 buck fee for our tech to keep typing.

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URGENT---Now What?
by ciabruno / February 19, 2010 11:44 AM PST
In reply to: If the MD command ...

I followed your instructions and found the defalut, sam, security software and system file....

what do I do next even though dos prompted: system 32 file is missing or corrupted?

I am at the R Console of XP CD.

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Looks like you are adding space.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / February 20, 2010 2:21 AM PST
In reply to: URGENT---Now What?

"what do I do next even though dos prompted: system 32 file is missing or corrupted?"

Computers are picky about spaces here but not there. Your post shows you may not be aware that system 32 is not the same as system32.

Try again.

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From Safe Mode. . .
by Coryphaeus / August 8, 2008 4:29 AM PDT
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missing or corrupt system32 files
by Gator Grad / August 8, 2008 11:37 PM PDT

Another solution is to do a repair install. You can google the instructions. The only downside is that you'll have to reinstall the servicepacks and updates that followed the release of your windows version. For example if your XP disk is service pack 1, you'll have to install SP3 and all the patches that followed after doing the repair install.

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Try registry repair
by Dango517 / August 8, 2008 11:43 PM PDT

Registry repair:

I think you might be a professional. If, yes then you may wish to buy one.

Warning ... overly aggressive registry repair software can remove items from the operating system creating numerous problems. Problems that might require the re-installation of the operating system. If you use this software choose one that allows you to revert the changes it makes. A restore point is a very good idea along with file system back ups.

Use of these suggestions is at your own risk. You are solely responsible should you decide to use these recommendations.

If a "no go" re-install the OS.

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