Windows XP not starting

A relative has an old computer with Windows XP which is not starting, and they want to get some files off it. The message received is:
"Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTE-
Someone suggested they try reinstalling XP, which is why they asked me, because I have a disk. But I would have thought it would be better to maybe access the computer with a linux live CD and copy the files, or remove the HDD and use a caddy/enclosure to access it. Any thoughts? Could reinstalling Windows cause the required files to be lost?

geek_rpvr, Feb 12, 7:20 pm

reinstalling from a disk will certainly wipe out the very files you want to save

use a live linux disk or some other means

when you re-install windows it over-writes all the systems generated folders - the very same folders that windows by default stores all your personal files in

geek_skin1235, Feb 12, 7:23 pm

if you use a linux disk, make yourself a new folder and copy the entire directory and subs of documents and settings, check that all the user account folders have copied and that all the sub folders in them have the data you want - sometimes the folder names travel but not the data in them - more a problem with later versions of windows than XP

another thought, if you have a disk is it the same version of XP as they have, you maybe able to do a system repair with your disk, - it checks for corrupted system files and replaces them , doesn't touch data not required for system stability

geek_skin1235, Feb 12, 7:28 pm

Basically the windows registry system file is corrupt.

if you load up the recovery console from the XP disk (or slave the HDD to another PC) then you can try running a chkdsk c: \p (chkdsk c: \f - if slaved). This sometimes fixes it.

Otherwise a system restore can be run from the recovery console.

Otherwise you can cut and paste the registry files from an old restore point into place.

geek_king1, Feb 12, 7:40 pm

Xp has a 'repair' function built into the install process. Google 'repair install xp' it will essentially just 'refresh' your xp system and you won't lose anything

geek_nice_lady, Feb 12, 11:25 pm

lol, thought I covered that in #3 - but has to be the same version, an XP pro disk will not repair an XPHome install etc

geek_skin1235, Feb 13, 12:15 am

further on that note, if XP has has service packs applied the original disk may well report it cannot continue as the disk is older than the current system, there are ways around this, requires editing the registry and you will later want to reinstall the service packs, give a yell if this is the case

geek_skin1235, Feb 13, 12:17 am

I tried that once using a Linux boot disk, but it is tricky identifying the correct files. So then I switched to something like Hirens (not certain it was that), and the registry restores were much easier to do.

geek_r.g.nixon, Feb 13, 12:29 am

I always do this by slaving to another PC, usually need to add 'everyone' permission to the System Volume Information folder, and remove afterwards. Easy peasy.

Linux possibly avoids the ownership permissions issue though. When I look at password protected profile data in linux no problem, but with windows need to 'confirm' permission etc

geek_king1, Feb 13, 2:41 am

This. but run sfc.exe. it's system file checker and it will check all the system files and repair them.

geek_mechnificent, Feb 13, 2:56 am

Many thanks for the advice.

geek_rpvr, Aug 16, 2:56 am