I've yet to find a consistent documented reply to your first question. While I do know I could attach the hard disk to another PC to save the owners files and clone the drive so I can have more than one attempt at repairing the OS the BRUTAL TRUTH is that I've yet to repair this error with any consistent procedure.

It's now down to this. I backup the files, install the OS and drivers, then restore the owners files.

The issues with CDKEYs are non-issues here. If an owner doesn't think these are worth recording we can try retrieving them but the cost of retrieval tends to be more than a new CDKEY. Also the Dell restore media that I used last week never asked for the CDKEY.

At this point this is my answer to questions 1 and 2.

Question 3 is not about the folders. Read this -> http://forums.majorgeeks.com/showthread.php?t=99278 If you don't read the full discussion you will miss out how they retrieved the key by using a floppy with said files after starting a repair install. It's not a trivial procedure and I can imagine some with explode or complain bitterly about it.

Question 4 is nice to read and I do not apologize for Microsoft making this harder than it should be. At least you don't own the Zune 30.
Bob