My win xp crashed due to registy issues. When I boot up, I get a black screen with a msg that says that "windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupted: \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM". Per online instructions, I tried to fix the registry using the recovery console and the win xp cd. However, it shows three differentt locations: C:\I386, C:\miniNT, D:\WINDOWS. Three locations are not addressed at any of the sites I accessed - they only show C:\WINDOWS. I don't know where to go from here. Can anyone help? I know that I will have to install a new hard drive but I have important data and photos on that hard drive that I would rather not lose. Thank you in advance for your assistance.
The basic issue is WHY did your PC experience a "registry issue" -- and the most likely reason is that the hard drive is failing.
If it were mine, and I had NOT backed up important files to external storage from that drive, I would STOP using it immediately! The more you use it, the greater the chance you will overwrite files you want to retrieve.
What I would do first, is focus on recovering data from that drive. To do that, you would need to do the following:
1) Remove the drive from the desktop and look at the connectors on the drive. If there are a bunch of little pins, this is an IDE drive. IF there are two plastic connectors with gold leads on them, this is a SATA drive.
2) Purchase a USB-to-Hard drive adapter kit for the type of drive you have
3) Connect that drive to a working PC using that adapter
5) Recover the files and folders you need to save to the working PC
6) Disconnect the old drive from the working PC
The second issue you are facing is restoring your PC to working condition -- and that is goind to be very hard for two reasons.
First, if the drive you took out is an IDE drive, it is virtually impossible to buy those these days, as the industry now makes and ships only SATA drives.
Second, HP hasn't stocked Recovery Media for their XP-era PCs for a long time, and without the HP media, any other version of XP that you install is NOT going to activate using the product key on the COA sticker on your PC, because that product key will only work with HP OEM versions of Windows XP.
So basically, at this point, about all you can do is recover the files and folders you want to save and consider getting a newer PC.
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