Repair XP by installing OEM CD over broken XP system

By alphaa10
Feb 13, 2008
  1. Repair of Windows XP by simply reinstalling the OEM CD over a dysfunctional system is said to be the simplest remedy for a number of obscure problems. Googling for that solution turns up an impressive list of "techsperts" offering that approach, among others. Yet, this method is not perfect.

    My current problem is a case in point. While on the internet one day, my perfectly functional, two-IDE-drive, XP system went bananas. There was a frozen screen, with loss of internet access and eerie app non-response. The first reboot fixed nothing, and a second with chkdsk /F on the boot drive was no help. Although the firewall was still up (ZoneAlarm basic), such "stealth firewalls" can have holes. In any case, the AV scanner would not work, and I had no idea what caliber bogie might have hit the system.

    Whatever the cause, I had an image backup of the boot drive made only days earlier. It was simple to start the Drive Image 7 rescue CD, and restore the image to its original location-- in this case, as a boot secondary drive with the expected designation of drive D.

    Now, the problem appeared-- after the restoration to drive D was complete (I made sure the restore operation left drive D the active / boot drive, as it was in the original image), I rebooted into the following message, "NTLDR missing. Please press ctrl-alt-del". My restored XP system secondary / boot drive could not start.

    There are probably many ways to handle this, but I began by simplifying the problem. I rejumpered both IDE physical drives from a cable-select mode to master/slave mode, with the boot drive master. I moved the primary slave drive from cable-end to cable-middle. Although moving the data cable connector position of the rejumpered drives no longer mattered outside CS mode, it helped prevent future mistakes about drive letters when probing under the hood. The drive which was originally the active partition, but in CS slave position, was now rejumpered master, and showed a primary master status in the BIOS, and came up as drive C..

    At this point, you might wonder whether Drive Image 7 recorded the original image in a fashion which would prevent restoration to any other drive letter, master/slave and active status but "drive D, secondary and active"-- but if this were so, the Drive Image 7 restore CD would not have optioned to make the restored partition bootable. Whatever the logic, I already had attempted a full image restore under the original physical and logical drive configuration, and still met the NTLDR error.

    Now, to the actual restoration. After reading about various solutions, I decided simply to reinstall from the OEM CD onto the existing (but non-starting) boot primary drive. Reason? All my apps and data were there, and had to be brought into play in a working XP system.

    So, now, I installed from the OEM CD over the original XP system, into the folder c:\windows2 (I had the option to overwrite existing windows files, but wanted to keep as much of the original windows as possible-- so I created c:\windows2). The new xp installation works, but...

    1. Problem
    After the OEM CD reinstall, none of my original, third-party apps work (ie. Adobe Acrobat Reader). All these apps are on the same partition as before, but none of them is functional or appears on the programs menu. While I understood that the overlay of one XP system by another would not destroy user data, I (mistakenly) presumed all my apps would be functional, as well.

    Yet, broken third-party apps is logical-- if any OS install-by-overlay makes registry changes, this probably is what neutered all my apps but left their data. My word processor documents are all present, but I must reinstall the word processor to read them. Clearly, XP was not designed to be installed over itself.

    2. Problem
    Yet, if the reinstall of XP left at least some of my data, where is the rest of it? And even if reinstalling XP reinstalled Outlook Express, as well, restoring email access, my original OE Address book and all my Inbox email is still missing. And here is the crux of the problem-- to transfer an old OE Address Book into a newly-installed OE, I first must have exported the old OE Address Book from the original app. I cannot go back to the original image to do that, because it won't boot.

    3. Solutions?
    Here is what I have done so far-- immediately after the new XP installation over the original partition restored booting, and after I found original data here and there on the original partition, I made an image of the working, newly-modified partition, just in case something went wrong.

    Next, I began to probe and search through the working XP system. What I searched for was a simple configuration file which would direct the system to use the original windows folder (c:\windows instead of c:\windows2) . My hope was I could bring back into play all my apps and settings in the repaired system, if only I could instruct windows where to find everything.

    And I located what appears to be such a file in c:\windows2\repair\setup, and was able to edit it in notepad to show the correct c:\windows folder. (I copied the original of the file "setup" to a floppy, just in case I had to dump it back into c:\windows2 to make it function again.) Now, I rebooted, hoping to operate from the original c:\windows folder. Despite my worries, the system came up beautifully. But still.... it operated from c:\windows2. No Outlook Express address book, no OE inbox filled with original email and folders. No functional third-party apps.

    Summary of situation

    1. OE address book still missing / out of reach
    And my functional OE inbox is still empty of all original OE folders and original email.

    2. Other application data is not in play
    Under c:\documents and settings\all users, all my application data are still there, but none of the data comes into play even when I login under the same user name as always-- and this includes certain vital personal data used by websites to automate transactions. Again, the OS reinstall probably made wholesale registry changes, and no, there was no registry backup by the user. (Windows keeps a "last good" version of the registry for the "Boot Windows Normally" option, but this F8 boot-time option was tried, already).

    NOTE: I was able to copy all the original desktop icons for All Users onto the current desktop, but not all original app shortcuts on the desktop work.
  2. kimsland

    kimsland Ex-TechSpotter Posts: 14,524

    I don't understand all this!

    Restore the image (again)
    Repair Windows (to the default C:\Windows)
  3. alphaa10

    alphaa10 TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I sympathize

    Two objectives--
    1. Restore original app data to use with all third-party appls.
    2. Recover OE Address book and original folders and Inbox email messages.

    In regard to Item 1, I have a working XP system, as result of the reinstall. The additional information is to provide context for the really difficult part, like
    recovery of the original data, particularly from the User Documents and Settings, for all apps.

    In regard to Item 2, this recovery is complicated by the fact the original OE export of its Address Book is the only means to import that data into the newly-installed OE.

    And recovery of the original OE Inbox messages and folders would be nice, as well.

    None of this recovery effort would be a problem if the original image in Drive Image 7 had restored without the NTLDR error. To remedy the NTLDR error condition, I already have tried the reload of NTLDR, NTdetect and boot.ini files, with no results.
  4. kimsland

    kimsland Ex-TechSpotter Posts: 14,524

    If you restore that image (faulty as it is)
    Then run a repair (that only removes Windows system files - not data or apps)
    You WILL have a working computer, with:
    • 1 All Applications working (well most, ie Antivirus, sometimes needes reinstall)
    • 2 Your ORIGINAL Outlook Express Address book.

    That's it !
  5. alphaa10

    alphaa10 TS Rookie Topic Starter

    RESOLVED -----
    1. At the time of my first post of this problem, I already had installed the OEM CD over the original image, and had done so in two separate attempts-- (1) installed into a separate windows folder named "windows2" and (2) installed directly over the original (restored from image) windows folder. Both variations restored a bootimg system, but neither restored access to my apps and Outlook Express (OE) files. This puzzled me, because every post I found in which this had been tried said this technique worked, yours included.

    2. From the first, I questioned whether the Drive Image 7 program imaged and restored properly. I have used DI in its various versions since version 4, and am familiar with many of its eccentricities, but for the sake of thoroughness, did a test image and restore of XP. That test used exactly the same settings as with the original problem. As expected, I booted into a perfectly normal system. This test not only substantially improved confidence in my method with DI7, but cleared the workbench of other possible factors, such as an intermittent hardware problem like a loose cable or bad cluster(s) on the drive to which I send mages.

    3. Now, back to the problem. I was left with a single, apparently faulty image, and no backup image. As noted above, I also had found installing the OEM CD over the original did not restore connections to my apps or email. In looking over my options, I remembered the PowerQuest Recoverry Environment (PQRE) permits selective restores from a disk image.

    Now, I tinkered with a test installation of OE long enough to know where all the data files were found, and restored the same OE files from the image to the boot drive. These worked to restore all the missing data in usable fashion-- Address Book, Inbox and all email in other folders, as well.

    Next, I went through a lengthy Windows update, installing SP2 and all critical patches before reinstalling the apps. And since I did not have the option to restore working apps by restoring the whole image, I used the PQRE to restore the desktop in all its shortcuts and folders, first. Then, I reinstalled all the apps, reminded by the shortcuts.of which apps were in play at the time of loss.

    4. Immediately, I made two images of the working system-- one to an external USB hard drive, and one to an internal hard drive. To this date, I never have placed an image backup on a series of CDs or DVDs because of occasional problems with faulty data areas which develop. Though I could image to a stack of discs, and then do a test restore to verify they work at the time of backup, this still is less reliable in storage than a hard drive-- and much slower.
  6. kimsland

    kimsland Ex-TechSpotter Posts: 14,524

    OK alphaa10, thanks for the update.

    I should have asked about the PQRE option (I use Ghost without this specific option of individual recovery)
    I have used Drive Image though, and the only issue I found with images, is that some Powerquest files are restored with the image, whereas Ghost only writes back the image (ofcourse) and a small file (somewhere).
    With which the drive is marked to be used by Ghost (as the Ghost comment states " Mark drive to be used by Ghost")


    Seeming you now have an image created (working I expect) I wonder if you would like to now try my original option to you.
    Restore faulty image
    Repair directly over Windows (the original Windows folder)

    Now I realize this is now not required. But there may be merit in what I've asked.
    1. It will help others - know that this will work (as I have stated before - and you noted)
    2. It may be cleaner that what you presently have (actually most likely cleaner)

    I'll will leave it with you to hopefully complete (even on another old drive - but same computer)
    But at this stage, my original suggestion to you, has not been done, and therefore is Not ruled out.
  7. alphaa10

    alphaa10 TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I'll make another attempt

    Yes, I'm as interested as you in something less arduous than a restore through a soda-straw by restoring individual files. In severe cases like this one, the image backup is the only cost/time-effective approach.

    For most users, a simple over-install from the CD cures so many problems, it is not worth a discussion of anything else. So, I'll try again with the faulty image on a test machine. Until it is resolved, I look at this anomaly the same way anyone else would-- it is another mystery waiting to multiply itself.
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