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How do I recover my Windows XP installation from a corrupt or incorrect boot.ini

By macs
May 12, 2007
  1. How do I recover my Windows XP installation from a corrupt or incorrect boot.ini, without an installation CD and the system will no longer boot?

    I am actually going to write the resolution after spending hours overnight trying to recover my PC. http://www.bootdisk.com/ntfs.htm did actually get me most of the way there once I really understood what I needed to do.

    I got myself in a mess when I was attempting to stabilise some issues with my XP installation, without a manufacturers install CD. I foolishly edited boot.ini incorrectly and my system failed to boot and I was stuck.

    First I had to create a boot CD, as there is no floppy drive on most modern PC’s. This was actually relatively easy with Nero (CD / DVD writer utility, free demo downloads on the Net), which has a standard template to create a BOOT CD. However, once I had booted from this CD into a DOS shell I was unable to manipulate any files on my failed boot (C:\) partition as all the utilities I could find gave me the ability to read my NTFS partition to recover files from it, but wouldn’t let me write to it.

    I eventually discovered NTFS4DOS from Avira. I dropped this utility on my boot disk (or USB stick which my PC could also read) and when I ran it (ntfs4dos.exe) it remapped all of my available partitions a 2nd time, but ensured that the 2nd copy was read writable. I was then able to delete boot.ini and replace it with a standard copy from another PC. My PC would now boot again

    Also whilst investigating my problems, I discovered that my PC manufacturer had created a 4GB FAT32 partition named recovery. This is presumably to enable me to restore my system to a factory default configuration without the need for an XP installation disc, which presumably Microsoft want a much higher license fee for.

    I surfed around my recovery partition whilst I was booted into DOS from my recovery CD (from above). On there I found a utility called WWBMU.exe. When I ran it I got a whole load of information in German. Having done 1 year of German at school 20 years ago, I was naturally able to understand not one word. However I foolishly muddled around what appeared to be a partition boot utility and managed to get my system to boot from the recovery partition.

    This appeared to attempt to start a recovery, but then a got a full screen image saying your system is protected by PC Angel shortly followed by a Blue Screen failure. In hind sight, it appears I was indeed going to overwrite my boot (C:\) partition and that PC Angel prevented me from doing this (a damned good job too). However, with that said WWBMU.exe did look like it had options for me to delete & recreate my C: partition. In the event that I did need to restore my PC from a fatal XP issue, it would appear that I could re-initialize the partition and then recover the manufacturers default factory image using WWBMU.exe.

    I am no Windows Guru, but I hope this might help someone get out of a mess, like I found myself in.
  2. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    You don't really have a good chance without a full version of a Windows installation CD.
    Boot.ini is found in two locations on the hard drive. You can copy a Boot.ini from another identical version of Windows XP and overwrite the bad ones... but if they are not the same or very similar, the copy will not work.
    You can retry your recovery in Safe Mode, and usually bypass the PC Angel.
    Your assumption is the final partition is essentially correct. That gives you the disc you need to reinstall Windows XP. However, it will not be a disc that you can use to run R or Repair... still it appears to be the only course available to you.
    If you data is valuable, you will need to boot to a second system and use the existing drive as a slave to easily recover the data. Most other choices are not available due to your defective Windows.
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