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Running System Restore When Windows XP Will Not Boot



There are times when a Windows XP system will not boot, even in to Safe Mode. Recovery options from such a situation are limited, however one little known option is the facility to run a System Restore to restore the system registry back to before the issue happened. Unfortunately, this procedure is not as straightforward and obvious as it is from within Windows XP.

Starting the Recovery Console

The recovery console is a tool in Windows XP that allows basic command line access to the system in order to allow an advanced user to troubleshoot and repair problems with the system where it will not boot. In this article we are only covering it's use for running a System Restore.

In order to get in to the Recovery Console, you will need to boot your computer from the original Microsoft Windows XP CD. When the system boots, you will get Windows Setup Screen, to get to the Recovery Console, press R on your keyboard.

You will be given a choice of Windows installations; if unsure the first one is normally the correct one.

No Windows CD?

Some manufacturers do not provide a Windows XP CD, this is unfortunate as it limits recovery options such as this. You can borrow a CD from a friend in order to do this procedure, if you have a fully licensed installation, then this shouldn't be a problem. If you are still unable to do this, you can download the Ultimate Boot CD and boot to FreeDOS to perform the same functions.

Doing the System Restore

Here comes the important part; These steps need to be followed exactly!

Now you have booted the computer to either the Recovery Console, or a FreeDOS Command Prompt, you will need to type in the following commands in bold; press the Enter key at the end of each line:

cd \
(the prompt should now be C:\>)
cd system~1\_resto~1
You will now get a listing of all the restore points, with names like rp1, rp2, etc. You will need to use the one second from last.
cd rpx (where x is the number of the restore point we are using)
cd snapshot
copy _registry_machine_sam \windows\system32\config\sam
copy _registry_machine_security \windows\system32\config\security
copy _registry_machine_software \windows\system32\config\software
copy _registry_machine_system \windows\system32\config\system
copy _registry_user_.default \windows\system32\config\default

The computer should now restart. Try restarting normally. If Windows still fails to boot, then try an earlier restore point (ie. third, or fourth from last); there is no point in trying more than 3 different restore points.

I get Access Denied message!

On some systems, when you try the second step above, you will get an Access Denied error. In such circumstances, from the Recovery Console (or FreeDOS) Command Prompt, you will need to type in the following commands in bold; press the Enter key at the end of each line:

cd \
cd windows\system32\config
ren system system.bak

The system should now restart, please follow the steps to do the System Restore again; this time you should not get the Access Denied error.

It didn't work, what now?

Unfortunately, this process is not a magic cure for every problem, and some systems will still refuse to boot all the way in to Windows. It will also only work if you had System Restore enabled in Windows. If this procedure doesn't work, then your next step is to reinstall Windows. If you do this, ensure that the setup recognises your previous installation and choose to repair it. If it does not continuing could lead to data loss.

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