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How to resolve Microsoft Windows XP '\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM' errors
Published Date : 23 Mar 2004   Last Updated : 14 Mar 2014   Content Ref: TEC210734  


You may see one of these error messages at startup:

  • Windows XP could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM
  • Windows XP could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SOFTWARE
  • Stop: c0000218 {Registry File Failure} The registry cannot load the hive (file): \SystemRoot\System32\Config\SOFTWARE or its log or alternate


This error is a sign that the registry has become corrupt. This usually happens because of an interruption of the power supply at the time when Microsoft® Windows® was accessing Registry files. This issue may also be caused by Windows® XP (first release) bugs.


You will need:

  1.  RM Recovery CD - Windows® XP Home/Professional SP1 or SP2 (depending on what is installed on the machine)

The words SP1/SP2 will appear after the operating system name under the RM logo on the right-hand side on the Recovery CD. Please contact RM Support if you do not have an SP1 or SP2 CD.

  1. If your computer is a RM Window Box™ you may need a password to access the Recovery Console.

Please contact RM Support for the Recovery Console password.


To resolve this issue, follow the steps below:

  1. Insert the Windows® XP Home/Professional SP1/SP2 Recovery CD into the CD-drive.  
  2. Restart the computer (you may need to hold the power button in for about five seconds to turn the computer off)
  3. One of three things should now happen:
    1. 'Press any key to boot from the CD-ROM drive' will appear on the screen - press any key while this message is on the screen. Continue below at Step 4.
    2. The Windows Setup blue screens will start and start loading files. Continue below at Step 4.
    3. The computer starts up with the original error. See the section below 'Your computer doesn't boot from the RM Recovery CD'.
  4. After a few minutes Windows Setup will stop at the 'Welcome to Setup' blue screen.

  • To setup Windows XP now, press Enter.
  • To Repair a Windows XP installation using Recovery Console, press R.
  • To quit setup without installing XP, press F3.
    1. Press R to repair the Windows XP installation.
    2. The next screen will ask you which Windows installation you would like to log on to. Normally the following will be listed.

    1:  C:\WINDOWS

    Which Windows Installation would you like to log onto
    (to Cancel, press ENTER)?

    1. Press 1, then Enter to continue.
    2. You may now be asked for the Administrator password. If not go to Step 9.
      1. If you know the Administrator password type it and press Enter.
      2. If you don't know the Administrators password it may be blank. Just press Enter.
      3. If the computer is a RM Window Box, type the Recovery Console password.
    3. You will now see a command prompt:


    1. Type chkdsk /r. (Note: You need to type a space between chkdsk and /r in order to avoid a bad file command message.)
    2. Press Enter. 
    3. Wait until the chkdsk command has finished (this may take between 10 minutes and one hour).
    4. Remove the Recovery CD and switch the computer off then back on.
    5. Startup Windows as normal.


    • Didn't work? - If the above process does not work try the articles in the Other Useful Articles section below, or if your computer is a RM Window Box, contact RM Support. Note: An RM Restore might be needed.
    • Window Box - If your RM Window Box system is not a SP1/SP2 based-system, do not use the Windows XP SP1 RM Recovery CD for any purpose other than running the Recovery Console. Destroy all records of the Recovery Console password.
    • BIOS Security - For security reasons, if you changed the BIOS sequence, you should change the BIOS Setup boot order back, so that the hard disk is booted before the CD-ROM drive. If you also change the BIOS Setup password, remember to write it down in a safe place.
    • Windows® XP First Release - See the More Information section below if your computer is a non-RM Window Box Windows XP First Release.

    Possible Issues

    Your computer does not boot from the RM Recovery CD

    You need to change the boot sequence in BIOS. The instructions below are generic and can vary from computer to computer. Please contact RM Support or consult your mainboard manual for further advice.

    1. Switch on your system and look for an on screen prompt:

    Press <Key> to Enter Setup

    1. Press the specified key while the message is on the screen (eg DEL, ESC, F2).
    2. You may now be asked for a password (RM is default, unless you have changed it).
    3. The BIOS Setup screen now appears.
    4. Look for an entry for Boot Menu / Boot Sequence / Boot Priority.
    5. Change the Boot / Startup Order so that the CD-ROM drive or Removable Devices is the first boot device, making sure they will be booted from before the Hard Disk.
    6. Select Save Settings and Exit or Exit Saving Settings when exiting the BIOS Setup utility (usually pressing F10 will prompt you to save and exit).
    7. Start again at the beginning of this article.

    More Information

    If you have Windows® XP First Release (not applicable to RM Window Box computers)

    To prevent this issue from occurring again, you should consider applying Service Pack 2 to all your systems (where possible), or apply the individual hotfix Q315403 (unmountable boot volume issue).

    Other Useful Articles

    Troubleshooting startup issues in Microsoft Windows XP (TEC272497)
    Cannot Log on to Windows XP Recovery Console (TEC77332)
    Stop error - Unmountable Boot Volume error on Microsoft® Windows® XP systems (TEC71448)

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    Document Keywords: system32, config, system, recovery, cd, console, sp1, service, pack, 1, window box, window-box, xp, corrupt, missing, start, up, startup, first, release, chkdsk, /r, hotfix, hot, fix, regedit

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