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XP won't boot? - Performing a manual restore of the Windows XP registry

So your old reliable XP or win 2000 system won't boot. You see the POST (Pwr On Self Test) complete as normal. At
first all looks ok, You see the XP logo and the progress indicator is changing and then a black screen comes up and
your system just sits there frozen and locked up.

Initially you see some hard drive activity but then nothing. You try ctrl-alt-delete but it's hung and locked up hard.
You reset or cycle the power and try booting to safe mode. A list of drivers loading scrolls on the screen and then stops.
Again the system is frozen and hung up just like before and you can't reboot using the keyboard.

Is your safe mode boot frozen at mup.sys?

The last driver that loaded may be mup.sys. To solve that issue on a number of systems, I performed this manual
restore procedure for the windows XP registry. On a few occasions I have also seen this related to a USB device. To
find out about other possible causes of the windows XP boot hang at mup.sys see the following link.
How to recover from the dreaded mup.sys hang.

This Procedure is for you if:

- You want a relatively easy fix and do not want to edit the Windows XP Registry settings.
- You have tried all you know including the suggestions in the previous mup.sys hang link to no avail, XP still won't boot.
- You don't want to do an OS reinstall as that would require, at least! reinstalling all your applications.
- You don't have a slip streamed Installation CD so an in place reinstall would require you applying all those security
  updates, argh Please NO!
- You would like to try performing a system restore but Windows needs to be loaded to do that! Or does it?

Follow along closely and I'll show you how to magically restore your system! 

Side Note: There are online forums available that have skilled PC Experts that may be able to help you in modifying
the registry files directly.
If you go that route, please be sure to backup your current registry first as we will do here shortly.

First thing we want to do is make sure your hard disk is in order before we continue.  A file system error is a likely
cause of a corrupted registry.

Running Chkdsk from the Windows XP Recovery Console

Restoring the Windows XP registry to a bootable configuration
General instructions and conventions

If your system won't boot successfully, you may have a corrupted registry. The following is the first step in
the restoring your windows xp registry procedure that will enable you to boot your system with generic registry

Note: The following assumes you are using the NTFS filesystem and that your windows directory is C:\WINDOWS.
If your are using the FAT32 filesystem, some instructions may not apply or be slightly different. I'll try and note
where the differences exist.
If your windows directory is different than C:\WINDOWS then substitute the correct value in the following instructions. 

Also! It is important you type all instructions exactly as shown!
Commands you need to type in will be displayed in lower case, a larger font, and a different color. 
FYI, Windows doesn't really care about case but I will use this convention for clarity.
I will prefix commands with the command prompt that includes the current working directory.
The Command Prompts will be in upper case as this is how they are displayed.
Yours should look the same and we can use this verify you are in the correct directory.
Be sure to pay attention to this as working with the command line is not at all forgiving!

If for some reason your command prompt doesn't reflect the current working directory, you can try executing this
command at the prompt.
set prompt $p$g

As a FYI, There are ways to automate some of this process and/or read the commands from a text file using the
recovery console. I'll leave those options to your imagination or possibly a future article.

Let's get started!

Backing up your current primary registry files
- Very Important, Do not skip! -

You should now be at a C:\WINDOWS> prompt.

First we will make a new directory to use for backup and as a scratch area.

At the C:\WINDOWS> prompt enter:

C:\WINDOWS>dir m*

Now we'll back up your current configuration(registry). We should not need those files anymore but it's good
just to be safe and it's free CYA.

Change your current working directory from C:\WINDOWS to C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG.

Your command prompt should now be: C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG>.

Now we will copy the folowing 5 regestry files.

Now these files are backed up to \MYTMP. Execute the following dir command to check.

You should see the five files listed:

It wouldn't be a bad idea to compare the file sizes with the originals, that's your choice.
To show the file sizes of the originals just execute the dir command.

Restore base registry hive files from original installation

Now we will replace the registry with the base files created\saved during the initial windows XP installation. 
This will enable us to boot the system normally and access the system restore files.

BTW, I know there are some Windows gurus out there that can restore the registry from your last checkpoint
using the recovery console without booting Windows XP itself but that is an even more tedious procedure and we
want to make this as painless as possible.
Besides, If you already know how to do that you are probably not reading this article anyway.

Enough digression. Back to business.  

Your current directory should still be C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG. If not make it so!

Copy these five files.

Make sure you are in the C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG Directory and check your spelling!
Please, DO Not overwrite any files or folders in the C:\WINDOWS\REPAIR Directory!
Also note the single space between the filenames at the end of the following commands.
When you get the warning about overwriting the destination file, Press Y to allow it. 
Now we should have good (albeit somewhat generic) registry files back in place.

Change the system date and boot XP with the base registry

Don't boot the Windows CD. Do a normal non-safe mode boot from the hard drive.
Depending on your system you may need to take out the CD from your optical drive.

If you followed along precisely, Your previous registry was corrupted, The repair files from you previous windows XP
install were in good shape, and of course, there is no other show stoppers here, you should be greeted by something
you havn't seen in a while!

A Windows XP Welcome screen!

You may notice your user ID(s) are not one of the selections. This is because of the generic registry that is loaded.

Note: System Restore is turned on by default. The following procedure assumes you have NOT turned off System

Manually restoring the XP registry from a Restore CheckPoint
Enabling access to restore files

Next we need to change some options so we can access hidden and system files created by System Restore.

We'll change these all back later when we're done.

NOTE: If you can not find this folder then either it is still hidden or System Restore was not enabled on your system
prior to the failure. Please recheck you have followed the above procedures to make the folder visible and accessible.

If the folder is still not visible then it may not exist and in that case you can not proceed with the restore.
Try the below security actions, they may help but if the folder is still not visible it likely does not exist.

However, Since the system is now accessible you may want to try backing up your important files and data
to restore later as a windows reinstall may be necessary.

      Help! I get a security error when I try to open the System Volume Information folder
Skip the next section on XP Pro and continue from the "Now open the System Volume Information folder"
step further down the page.

If you are running XP Pro follow closely.
Be sure you select a user and not a group. For example, if your user id is administrator, Make sure you select
the administrator user (Icon with one head). Do not select the administrators group (Has an icon with two heads).

Extracting registry files from System Restore created CheckPoints

You should now see a number of folders named RP##. These are Restore Points.

For example: _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SAM becomes just SAM
Also, don't forget to remove the dot in the name for the .default file!

Import extracted checkpoint registry files into the current active registry

We are going back to the recovery console so we can copy in the extracted registry files to the current active
configuration. This needs to be done when windows is not running otherwise they are locked and therefore
can't be replaced.

Now back at the C:\WINDOWS prompt:

Change your current working directory from C:\WINDOWS to C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG

Your command prompt should now be: C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG>
Make Sure!

Enter each command below and Type Y when prompted to overwrite. Also note the single space between
the filenames at the end of the command lines!

This Is IT ! The moment we have been waiting for!
You can remove the XP CD from your optical drive and put it away for safe keeping.

Note that during this particular startup Windows needs to rebuild itself and it will take some time so be patient.
It is best to wait until most of the major HD activity is finished before you logon. I've seen a non-responsive
keyboard issue occur when trying to enter your password. If that happens to you, just give it a minute and try again.

Now you should be back at your original configuration with all the applications, settings and updates that were in
effect at the time reflected by the selected Restore Point.

                                Congratulations! Great Job!

If this somehow is not the configuration you want you can always go back to System Restore in the normal
fashion and load a different restore point.
You can get there by START>ACCESSORIES>SYSTEM TOOLS>SYSTEM RESTORE and selecting another
restore point using the wizard.

Restore security settings for system restore folders

Now, If you have not done so already there are a few items you need to address once you feel all is stable and
have restarted a few times.

Logon to your system as a user with administration privleges

To enhance security: Bring up Explorer (Right Click START), Click on tools, Click Folder Options,
     Click the View tab

1. Under hidden files and folders, Set the "Do not show hidden files and folders" radio button

2. Make sure there is a check in the "Hide protected operating system files" item

3. (XP Home) While you are still in explorer navigate to the C:\System Volume Information folder, Right click,
    select Sharing and Security..., In the Sharing, Network and Security section deselect the two checkboxes,
    Click Apply and OK. 
3. (XP Pro) Navigate to the C:\System Volume Information folder, Right click, select Sharing and Security...,
    Open the Security tab, Highlight (ONLY) the user (One headed Icon) that was added previously and click
    the remove button. Please Do Not remove the SYSTEM or Everyone Groups!
    When you are sure click Apply and OK

4. (XP Pro) Click on tools, Click Folder Options, Click the View tab, Scroll to the bottom and make sure
    there is a check in the "Use simple file sharing" item

Fall back procedure ( If Needed ONLY ) - Pre-procedure Registry files restore

If for some reason you would need to revert your registry files back to what they were before you started
this procedure, here are the instructions.

NOTE: This is NOT part of the recovery procedure. This process is only be used if you have a specific
reason for example by way of some technical support or other recommendation.
This will revert your system back to the original failed state

You should now be at a C:\WINDOWS> prompt.

Now we will change to the directory you created in the beginning of the procedure where you had
saved the then current registry. Here we will assume the directory is C:\WINDOWS\MYTMP as per
the procedure described earlier and the files have the recommended .bak extension.

At the C:\WINDOWS> prompt enter:


We will now copy these saved files to the %windir%\system32\config directory where XP looks for your current registry
Make sure you are in the C:\WINDOWS\MYTMP directory and double check your spelling!
Note the single space between the filenames separating the source and target in the following commands.
When you get the warning about overwriting the destination file, Press Y to allow it. 
Once this is completed you have restored your system back to the original registry state it was in before
you started this restore\recovery procedure.

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Thanks!   Enjoy! This fix has worked for others and I hope it works for you!

Version 1.2   Copyright © 2007-2009 All rights reserved.   Terms of Use

Quick Article Links

Running Chkdsk from the Windows XP Recovery Console

Restoring Windows XP's registry to a bootable configuration

Manually restore the Windows XP registry from a Restore Point

Restore security settings for System Restore folders

Fall back procedure (If Needed) Restore pre-procedure registry files

Related Links

Microsoft Knowlege Base article
Installing the XP Recovery Console

Microsoft Knowlege Base article
Logon Looping- userinit.exe

Ultimate Boot CD for Windows

NT Password\Registry Editor