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Your system displays the error message.

Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM

That means the System Registry Hive has become corrupted.

There are two ways to get back up and running. The easy way which doesn't always work, and then there is the hard way.

Easy Way --- Note that this doesn't always work.
When you are booting your system, press the F8 key during the start of the bootup sequence, meaning after it does the Power On Self Test.

Once you press the F8 key, you will be taken to a Menu. Select "Boot Using Last Known Good Configuration".

It will now attempt to load Windows XP using a past set of configuration files.

If that doesn't work, there is the next step....the hard way.

Hard Way
Boot your system with the Windows XP Install CD, let the system boot into the Setup. Once in the Setup, choose to run the Recovery Console.

You will now be presented with a screen similar to good old DOS.

First, we will recover the System Hive.

Now, type in the following commands with pressing Enter after each line.

md tmp
copy C:\windows\system32\config\system C:\windows\tmp\system.bak
delete C:\windows\system32\config\system
copy C:\windows\repair\system C:\windows\system32\config\system

Be very careful when you are typing in these commands, one wrong move, and you know, broken Windows XP.

Also, change the C in the commands to whatever your Windows XP drive letter is.

Attempt to boot the system, if it doesn't boot, get back into the Recovery Console and do the following commands.

md tmp
copy C:\windows\system32\config\software C:\windows\tmp\software.bak
delete C:\windows\system32\config\software
copy C:\windows\repair\software C:\windows\system32\config\software

The full Microsoft Support Knowledge Base Article that I based this FAQ entry on can be found here (Q307545).

Feedback received on this FAQ entry:
  • it works, thankssss

    2013-12-13 02:41:06

  • OMG.... Thank you so much. The first step worked for me.I can start my computer now.

    2013-08-25 22:03:51

  • Dear Friendd, when i tried both way easy as well as hard, but both are not worjked, whenevr i go for second option ''Booted system with the Windows XP Install CD,but there is not coming any welcome screen and not alowing to tyoe ,it is just showing that windows config system32 is currept plase use origional cdrom and select R option. Please suggest ,definately apreciate your suggestion ....

    2013-08-10 00:40:57

  • Repair Windows system

    2013-07-19 19:00:54

  • The Easy Way did not work for me but the Hard Way worked like a champ! Saved me hours. Thank you!

    2013-06-18 09:52:45

  • This is SUPER EASY AND SAVE TIME!(WORKS FOR ME ANYWAY) Solution: When you start the windows xp setup(Beginning part) Don't press R to go to Recovery Console, Just continue.. When you reach the that says "repair windows installation", exit the windows setup. And, You can start back your CPU! Taa-Daa! No need to type all the codes. If any damage is cause, don't say because of me. I recommended this because this works for me. TQ! God bless you all!

    2013-06-04 20:24:19

  • where i can get the windows xp install cd?? i don't have that..

    2011-10-26 11:44:12

  • Hej, I got the problem with \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SOFTWARE and I fixed that with chkdsk /r (run till everything went fine), that option is easier imo ;)

    2011-10-14 06:52:17

  • How to Repair Windows\system32\config\system Error Cara mudah : 1. Siapkan tool hiren (sy pakai hiren 10) 2. Boot dari hiren pilih mini windows xp 3. Buat folder di c:\config\ 4. Sekarang buka folder di c:\ System Volume Information 5. Cari folder _restore{A886072xxxxxxx} lau cari folde RPXX (cari anggka tertinggi) 6. Di folder RPxx\snapshot\ copy beberapa folder dibawah ini : _REGISTRY_USER_DEFAULT _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SECURITY _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SOFTWARE copy ke folder c:\config _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SYSTEM _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SAM 7. Lalu rubah semua nama diatas menjadi : _REGISTRY_USER_DEFAULT DEFAULT _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SECURITY SECURITY _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SOFTWARE SOFTWARE _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SYSTEM SYSTEM _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SAM SAM 8. Rename folder c:\windows\system32\config menjadi config32 9. Lalu copy (c:\copy c:\folder c:\ c:\windows\system32\ 10. Restart computer . Silahkan di translate sendiri aku cinta indonesia semoga berhasil @bossnetcomputindo (bekasi_Indonesia)

    2011-09-11 02:49:46

  • Warning<\b> Do not use the procedure that is described in this article if your computer has an OEM-installed operating system. The system hive on OEM installations creates passwords and user accounts that did not exist previously. If you use the procedure that is described in this article, you may not be able to log back into the recovery console to restore the original registry hives.

    2011-04-16 11:42:59 (Doctor Olds See Profile)

  • thank you, the first set worked beautifully.

    2011-04-08 17:59:20

  • Bravo Zulu to you. Beautiful job. TY so much.

    2010-05-09 16:52:42

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by trparky See Profile
last modified: 2003-01-23 23:43:49