I know it’s hard to believe, but Windows can sometimes stop operating properly—even the amazing XP (note sarcasm). When this happens the instinct is often to wipe out the operating system and do a clean install. Yeah, you could do that, but before you get that drastic, try a few other options.
With Windows XP and ME try a System Restore
Run Error Checking (Scan Disk in Win 9x/ME)
Try to repair from the installation CD. What’s that? You heard me. If your computer came with the actual installation CD you can use it to repair Windows before starting all over on a clean hard drive.
A Repair Install will replace the system files with the ones found on the CD but will leave your applications, files and settings where they are. You will, however need to redo your updates. Another advantage is that any files corrupted by adware/malware will be replaced.
Before we start: it is always a good idea to have important data backed up onto disks. This is especially true whenever doing maintenance.
First, you need to boot the computer using the installation CD. You may need to change the boot order in BIOS so the CD boots up before the hard drive. Check your owner’s manual to find out how to do this. If you’re a novice, then I wouldn’t suggest messing around with BIOS.
Next, you’ll see a “Welcome to Setup” screen with a few options. You want the first one: “To setup Windows XP now, press ENTER”
So, press ENTER to start the setup. DO NOT choose the second option, “To repair…”
You’ll be asked to accept the licensing agreement then it will search for any existing Windows installations. Pick the one you want to repair from the list and press “R” to start the repair.
Don’t panic. Don’t press any keys. It will look like a clean install, but only necessary files are being copied to the hard drive. Windows will then begin to load.
Your computer will then reboot. It will notice that the CD is in the drive—don’t press any keys, let it bypass the CD.
If your XP installation disk came out before Service Pack 2 you’ll need to go back out and get it. You should also go to Microsoft and get scanned for updates. These are removed during the Repair Install. Same goes for the updates on other Win flavors for which you may not be able to get updates still. Here’s a tip about updates…
Don’t forget to go back into BIOS and change the boot order back to hard drive first.
What if you don’t have an OS or Recovery Disk?
Everything from the OS disk could be located on a hard drive recovery partition. This has been going on for a while but is now becoming the norm.
With HP or Compaq you access recovery on restart by hitting the F10 key. You can recover applications, drivers, and the operating system to their factory shipped condition. You will need to reinstall and reconfigure any application that you installed, but it will not delete data files in its
normal default mode.
Some Gateway computers also have a Recovery partition. Just hit F11 at startup.
Dell, Acer, and Sony are also going the hidden partition route. Check your manual or Help screen to find out how to access. Try typing in “Recovery Partition” and see what the results are.
In addition, you may be able to create one set of OS disks from the recovery partition. Again, each manufacturer has a different method, but if you go to Help and type in “Recovery” you should find something about creating a CD in the results.
So, all is not lost. you can repair Windows XP after all, even without a disk.
P.S. If your computer is not name brand and you didn’t get a disk then you might not have a legit copy of Windows. Go to the mom and pop shop you bought it from and tell them you want your OS disk.
David Samuel Thomas