How to fix “Windows XP could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt”

A corrupt registry is the usual headache for most of my clients. The registry is a vital part of your Windows Operating system, it is what we call the central room. It stores all the informations on your PC, so a small error can cause big problems.

Yesterday I’ve been called to repair a clients PC because his PC receives an error when he try to boot on Windows XP. He thinks of reformatting the PC but opted to call me first to seek advice. Below is the error he recieves when loading Windows XP. Fortunately I was able to save him from formatting his PC.

corrupted-registry1

Here are the procedures that you can follow to be able to recover from a corrupted registry and normally boot again on Windows XP. The procedures below are also applicable to the following registry errors.

  • Windows XP could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM
  • Windows XP could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SOFTWARE
  • Stop: c0000218 {Registry File Failure} The registry cannot load the hive (file): \SystemRoot\System32\Config\SOFTWARE or its log or alternate

Boot into the Recovery Console

To be able to fix the registry error you need to use Windows XP Recovery Console. You can boot from a Windows XP CD or boot directly to the Recovery Console.

Follow these steps to boot into Windows XP Recovery Console

  • Place your Windows XP in the CD-ROM Drive
  • Restart your computer, make sure that your BIOS is set to boot from CD
  • When you see the message “press any key to boot from cd…” press the space bar or any key.
  • Wait until you see the “Welcome to Setup” screen, and press R to start the Recovery Console
  • Choose which Windows installation you wish to load
  • Type the administrator password and Press Enter
  • You should now be at the C:\Windows> prompt
  • Copy Repair Files Using the Recovery Console

If your Windows installation is on a different drive please substitute the substitute the appropriate drive letter in the procedure below.

At the Recovery Console command prompt, type the following lines, pressing ENTER after you type each line:

md tmp
copy c:\windows\system32\config\system c:\windows\tmp\system.bak
copy c:\windows\system32\config\software c:\windows\tmp\software.bak
copy c:\windows\system32\config\sam c:\windows\tmp\sam.bak
copy c:\windows\system32\config\security c:\windows\tmp\security.bak
copy c:\windows\system32\config\default c:\windows\tmp\default.bak

delete c:\windows\system32\config\system
delete c:\windows\system32\config\software
delete c:\windows\system32\config\sam
delete c:\windows\system32\config\security
delete c:\windows\system32\config\default

copy c:\windows\repair\system c:\windows\system32\config\system
copy c:\windows\repair\software c:\windows\system32\config\software
copy c:\windows\repair\sam c:\windows\system32\config\sam
copy c:\windows\repair\security c:\windows\system32\config\security
copy c:\windows\repair\default c:\windows\system32\config\default

Quit Recovery Console by typing “quit”. when your computer restarts press F8 then choose Safe Mode

Restart in Safe Mode and Find a Recent Snapshot Backup

Restart your computer in Safe Mode by pressing F8 during the initial bootup and choosing Safe Mode. Once in Safe Mode, you need to make sure the files and folders are visible so you can access them. Follow these instructions to accomplish this.

1. Open My Computer
2. Click on the Tools menu, then click Folder Options.
3. Click the View tab.
4. Under Hidden files and folders, click to select Show hidden files and folders, and then click to clear the Hide protected operating system files (Recommended) check box.
5. Click Yes when the dialog box that confirms that you want to display these files appears.

In My Computer, Double-click the drive where you installed Windows XP (usually Drive C) to display a list of the folders. then double-click on the “System Volume Information” folder. This folder contains the system restore points stored on your computer. The folders will look similar to

_restore{EE42BEB8-700A-495F-8004-53D26C2E12C5}

You might receive an access denied error message similar to the following when trying to access the System Volume Information folder.

C:\System Volume Information is not accessible. Access is denied.

You received this error message because you are logged in under does not have permissions set on the folder. To fix this, follow the instructions in the Microsoft Knowledge Base article 309531 to gain access and continue.

Once you have access to the snapshots, use the instructions below to copy one of the latest snapshots to the Windows\TMP directory so you have access to it.

1) In the System Volume Information Folder, click on View, and then click Details to display the date of each snapshot folder.
2) Open a folder that was not created at the current time but rather before the problem started.
3) Open the Snapshot subfolder
4) Highlight the following files and copy and paste them into the C:\Windows\TMP folder

  • _REGISTRY_USER_.DEFAULT
  • _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SECURITY
  • _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SOFTWARE
  • _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SYSTEM
  • _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SAM

5) Rename the files that you just copied into the C:\Windows\TMP folder.

  • Rename _REGISTRY_USER_.DEFAULT to DEFAULT
  • Rename _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SECURITY to SECURITY
  • Rename _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SOFTWARE to SOFTWARE
  • Rename _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SYSTEM to SYSTEM
  • Rename _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SAM to SAM

6) Once your done renaming the files, restart your computer again with the Recovery Console

Replace the Repair Files with a Current Backup of the Registry

In the Recovery Console again, type the following commands at the prompt to replace the files with a current backup. You’ll need to press Enter after each command.

del c:\windows\system32\config\sam
del c:\windows\system32\config\security
del c:\windows\system32\config\software
del c:\windows\system32\config\default
del c:\windows\system32\config\system

copy c:\windows\tmp\software c:\windows\system32\config\software
copy c:\windows\tmp\system c:\windows\system32\config\system
copy c:\windows\tmp\sam c:\windows\system32\config\sam
copy c:\windows\tmp\security c:\windows\system32\config\security
copy c:\windows\tmp\default c:\windows\system32\config\default

After the files have been replaced, type EXIT at the command prompt to restart Windows in normal mode.

Use System Restore to Return to a Good Backup Point

Because there is more to a System Restore than just the registry files, follow these steps to restore your computer to a good backup point.

1. Click Start, and then click All Programs.
2. Click Accessories, and then click System Tools.
3. Click System Restore, and then click Restore to a previous Restore Point and finish the restore.