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I think I'm going to have to reinstall XP - help please?

By GeorgiaGirl47
Jul 2, 2007
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  1. Ok, let's see if I can explain this without sounding like a complete *****:

    I have a Dell Inspiron 6000 laptop (with windows XP pro) that has been a pain since I got it. This is about the 5th or so time it has crashed.

    I was having a problem with a game I was playing a few weeks ago...after a few days of playing, the saved game would be purged and I'd start all over only to have it happen again. I contacted tech support for this game and they looked at all of my system info and informed me that I had extremely low disk space. I went on a mission to free up space -- uninstalling unused programs, deleting old files, and files I don't use anymore. I managed to free up some space, but not a lot. I couldn't figure out why I had so much disk space that was not free because I was down to the bare necessities on my computer along with a few small programs.

    Anyway, yesterday I started getting the error message saying that "windows/system32/config/system" was corrupt or missing...I ran chkdsk, tried to fix it and reset my computer, and now Windows won't load at all - I get a black screen. After tons of googling, I've tried booting from the CD to do a repair install, I've tried...well just about everything over the past 24 hours that I could find and nothing works.

    So...I am considering doing a clean install of windows again. I will lose some word documents that I need, but I guess I have no choice in the matter.

    I did have to reinstall windows again before and the computer was like it was when I originally got it, but I could still find all of my old folders when I did a search for them. This makes me wonder if I had possibly had windows installed twice and that was possibly why I had little to no disk space?? I've been having so many issues with the computer though, to completely wipe out windows and start over kind of sounds like a good idea.

    I just want to make sure it IS a good idea, make sure I can completely wipe any old versions of Windows clean and start fresh like the computer was when I got it, and make sure I am not missing something...because I'm not 100% on what I'm doing or how to do it!

    Any help or suggestions will be VERY VERY appreciated.

    Thanks!
  2. sat574

    sat574 TS Rookie

    10 way to fix win xp boot

    heres a link that has several ways you can use to solve boot up problems. Hope this helps!
  3. almcneil

    almcneil TS Guru Posts: 1,554

    If you decide to re-install windows, you do not need to reformat. One option is to perform a "parallel" installation which will allow you to backup your files before reformatting the entire partition and re-installating. Another option is an "in-place" re-installation which will not touch your existing personal files, only re-install the Windows directory/system.

    I might suggest getting an external hard drive and offloading your large personal files to it. That will free up a lot of internet hard drive space.

    As for your immediate problem, it could be the boot records that are corrupt that is causing the startup problem. Re-post if you want to atempt fixing them.
  4. GeorgiaGirl47

    GeorgiaGirl47 TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 39

    sorry if this posts twice -- my dog unplugged the computer when I was doing it the first time.

    Buying something right now is out of the question.

    If I reinstall windows, I'd prefer to just lose everything and start completely new like it was when I got it, if possible, so I can just start all over. Won't that clear up the disk space? I can reinstall programs...there are just a few word files I wouldn't mind saving.

    I would be open to trying to the boot record fixes if you are open to walking me through it. I really have no idea what I'm doing!
  5. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 13,408   +314

    WHOO!
    >Anyway, yesterday I started getting the error message saying that "windows/system32/config/system"

    you just lost the registry -- the files are (or should be) just fine!

    see this post for possibilities


    if this is a NEW system and nothing precious is on it, then flat reinstall.
    BE SURE to get all the system drivers specific to your system.

    The OEM Restore CD will bring your system back to the first day you brought it home
  6. GeorgiaGirl47

    GeorgiaGirl47 TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 39

    wow - I went to the link and totally don't understand it LOL I need someone to hold my hand basically.

    It's not a new system but as I said there are a few things I'd like to save if possible, but if not, no big loss.

    Either way, even if I could get to those few files I'd like to save, I think I do want to reinstall windows and just start over fresh...but I need to be sure all other things are deleted, becase I don't need 3 copies of windows on the computer...so...I just don't know where to go from here.

    if there is an easy to understand, simpe way for me to fix the error, great, if not, I'm willing to just start all over!!

    I actually have XP Pro & Home, but I think I'd prefer to have Home, I'm running Pro now, so if I can just wipe it clean and put home on, that'd be great too.
  7. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 13,408   +314

    stick with whatever was last bootable! flopping to-fro is a pain.

    first chore is to get a CD that will boot OR try booting into SAFE MODE;
    • from a powered off condition, start the system
    • immediately start pressing/release/pressing your F8 key until you get a prompt
    • if you get the opportunity, choose SAFE MODE

    if this doesn't work, you'll need the bootable CD.

    your object is to get the registery recovered. there are copies located at
    c:\System Volume Information\_restore{....}\RPnnn\Snapshot\
    and the files found there are
    • _REGISTRY_USER_.DEFAULT
    • _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SAM
    • _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SECURITY
    • _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SOFTWARE
    • _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SYSTEM

    (THE QUESTION IS WHICH RPnnn to access)
    sort the list by Date Modified until the newest one is on top.
    Now then; how far back to you need to go? depends upon how much has changed
    and how long did you suffer symptom. Choose a date far enough back to be
    sure it's ok, but not so old that the programs you need were not installed
    after that date.

    the process is to COPY files to \windows\system32\config and
    then RENAME them in place of the existing files (which you need to delete/rename first).
    DEFAULT
    SAM
    SECURITY
    SOFTWARE
    SYSTEM​

    once they are rename, you can reboot
  8. GeorgiaGirl47

    GeorgiaGirl47 TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 39

    ok, i can boot from CD, can't go into safe mode. I'm at the screen where it says I can install, repair intall, etc. What do I do next?
  9. almcneil

    almcneil TS Guru Posts: 1,554

    Yes, All Dell comps now come with an factory image. I know this because I used to work at a Dell Call Centre. A factory image is an exact copy of yoru hard drive at the time they built your system. You can restore your system to this image at anytime but you will lose all your personal files plus any programs you installed since you got the comp. It will be just as it was when you pulled it out of the box.

    Here's how you do it. Restart the comp and when you see the Dell logo, press cntl-F11 repeatedly but slowly. A screen should appear that says System Restore by Symantec. Just click Next and accept the warning that you will lose all personal data. It will take about 5 mintues and your comp is back to exactly the way it was when you pulled it out fo the box.

    Warning, if you have already reformatted your internal hard drive or changed your hard drive partitions, the factory image is lost and the cntl-F11 won't work.
  10. GeorgiaGirl47

    GeorgiaGirl47 TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 39

    thanks - so if I do that, I won't have to reinstall windows and everything will be just as it was when I bought it...more importantly my disk space will be clared up?
  11. GeorgiaGirl47

    GeorgiaGirl47 TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 39

    that would be *cleared up
     
  12. almcneil

    almcneil TS Guru Posts: 1,554

    That's correct, you hard drive will be restored to exactly the way it was when you pulled it out of the box!
  13. GeorgiaGirl47

    GeorgiaGirl47 TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 39

    Ahh, thanks! So do you have any idea how I might fix it so that I can get in and save a few files before doing that?
  14. almcneil

    almcneil TS Guru Posts: 1,554

    You can do a "parallel" installation. You boot from the XP installation CD and get to the screen where you can install Windows. Select the same partition and give the new installation a different name, Windows2. This installs a separate installation of Windows in another directory, c:\Windows2. Once complete, you boot to Windows2. Your programs won't be there but you can access your personal files and be able to back them up.
  15. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 13,408   +314

  16. almcneil

    almcneil TS Guru Posts: 1,554

    I should explain some more about this Image Restore utility that comes with Dell PCs. It's actually a stripped down version of Norton Ghost by Symantec. With Norton Ghost, you can both save images and restore from images. With the Image Restore utility for Dell PCs, you can only restore from the one factory image which Dell takes for you once they finish building your system but before they ship it. Also, this image is saved on a separate partition on your internal hard drive. The image is compressed so it doesn't take up that much space but it does reduce the amount of available disk space. The upside is that because the image is on the internal HDD, the restore process is FAST!! When I worked at the Dell Call Centre, I used the image restore many times. The slowest took 8:23! The fastest was 2:43!! Now if you decide to buy Norton Ghost (or another image backup utility) and take your won images, it's actually better to use an external HDD to store images. This keeps your internal HDD usage down, hence, your system fast. Also you can save multiple images. The downside is the save/restore process is longer, about 20 to 80 mins depending on the size of the image, compression rate and CPU speed. Still, it sure beats rebuilding your system!!
  17. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 13,408   +314

    TRUE :) however, your files will still be under the OLD CSLID and
    there will be no personal login and the default admin will not be the original admin.

    The nice part is, ANY admin can access your files. Mount an external USB HD
    and copy them off ... :)
  18. almcneil

    almcneil TS Guru Posts: 1,554

    Joe, although your point is correct that any admin can copy her files, she's about to restore from an image so that won't be an issue. No offense to your suggestion but she just wants to backup her files then start the image restore. Doing a parallel installation is a simple, quick (but dirty!) method of gaining access to her personal files.
  19. GeorgiaGirl47

    GeorgiaGirl47 TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 39

    ok...so let me see if I have this straight.

    To save the few files I'd like to save, I can install Windows as "Windows2" and go in and get the files that I'd like to keep. (I think this will put me with three versions of windows on this one computer).

    Then when I do the control F-11 - everything will be wiped clean, all three versions of Windows are gone, hard drive is freed up, memory is freed up, all files, all programs are gone, and I can start anew?


    There are two things I didn't think about - iTunes - I have abou 1,000 songs on it, but my cousin says he can upload them from my iPod onto a storage thing and then put them back on mine when I reinstall? Also, connecting to my wireless network on my desktop. Will that mess this up?

    Thanks again!
  20. almcneil

    almcneil TS Guru Posts: 1,554

    File Backup: You can do a "parallel installation" or "in place re-installation" The first, you install a second Windows system in a new directory but you can still access all your personal files. The latter, you overwrite the current Windows installation with a new one but it won't touch your personal files. Either one will work. When you reach the point with the installation CD where it asks you if you want to overwite the current installation, that's where you decide which one you want to do. Again, either will suffice.

    The Image Restore utility will restore the factory image overtop of you current hard drive. Yes, everything you currently have will be gone but it will be replaced with what was on your hard drive when Dell shipped it to you. That means Windows and all the programs you purchased from Dell will be there. Anything you added/changed to your system since you got it will be gone. Note that this image restore utility may not work if you have reformatted you hard drive or resized your partitions since you got the system. When you do that, the Master Boot Record is updated and the link to the image restore utility is lost (cntrl-F11 won't work.)

    I don't use iTunes but I understand that it uses some kind of file configuration utility. So you need to back that up. Best to check with someone who knows all abotu this beforehand.

    As for your wireless network, it will be lost and you will need to re-install it after the image restore.
  21. GeorgiaGirl47

    GeorgiaGirl47 TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 39

    I have not reformatted or resized anything that I am aware of.

    I think my cousin has some sort of "cheat" for itunes, so I'm not sure about that, I will talk to him before I do it.

    My wireless network was a pain to install...yikes! I may have to post here again about that.

    Thanks for your help, here goes nothing...
  22. GeorgiaGirl47

    GeorgiaGirl47 TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 39

    Ok, just did the windows installation, my files are all there. My cousin is going to loan me his something or other storage thing to back up what I want to keep and then I'm going to do the image thing. Thanks for all of your help... I should be good to go by tonight... I hope!
  23. GeorgiaGirl47

    GeorgiaGirl47 TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 39

    alrighty...files I want to keep are backed up, everything else if free to disappear. I just can't get the ctrl F11 to work. Nothing happens, it just keeps going to the Windows screen.

    So...if I go into system tools - system restore once I get into Windows, does that work the same way?

    Thanks again.
  24. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 13,408   +314

    choices; many, varied AND different consequences too!

    SOME (if not all) OEM restores will wipe your drive clean and then restore an
    image from day-1 -- meaning you LOOSE everything.

    The parallel install idea is VERY GOOD, easy to do, and best of all, KEEPS all your existing files.

    My comments re restoring the registry work, are complicated (for many) but
    brings your system back to the point where it went haywire.

    I highly recommend the parallel install.
  25. GeorgiaGirl47

    GeorgiaGirl47 TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 39

    I've actually already reinstalled Windows and saved all the files I want to keep. I can reinstall the few programs I had on the computer. I just need to start over. I can't do anything now, I'm just at a basic windows screen..my drivers and stuff are missing (direct x and all that) and I'm getting low on disk space because it's the 4th or 5th time I've installed everything.

    I'm looking to just clean out my system and return it to it's original state. Thanks.
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