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Calling all computer experts
Jayon, CD, and whoever else tinkers with computers, I'd like to pick your brains.

My main comp had a meltdown this morning. I was greeted with the lovely message...

Windows XP could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM

Oh Boy, what fun this is gonna be.Sad

Restore didn't work, chkdsk /r, was a no-go. Even when I gave up and decided I'd just do a reinstallation over the old one, XP couldn't find the partition. I may have lost my partitions.

I am trying this tool at the moment, testdisk 6.9

It's a data recovery utility, written by Christophe Grenier. I'd like to see what it can do. Have any of you tried his tool before? Does it work worth a shit?


I'm trying to avoid a reformat.
Edited by RayvenAlandria on 03/05/2009 19:21
Well, I was able to create a new MBR with the tool, so I didn't have to reformat the whole drive but I had to do a fresh installation of Winblows, so I lost the stuff on my desktop and other things.


It's going to take forever to get everything reinstalled and back the way I like it.

Bob of QF
It sounds like you didn't do a bare-metal re-install.

Thus, you'll likely find your old desktop, favorites, e-mail stuff, etc, etc is still lurking there on your drive.

Open Windows Explorer (NO! NOT Internet Exploder...puhleese... Grin ) Unless you've moved it, it's under RUN-->PROGRAMS-->ACCESSORIES-->WINDOWS EXPLORER.

Now, click on the little "my computer" line, to open up your C: drive.

Look for Documents and Settings" Open that up.

In there, you'll see the old settings (including your old desktop) and loads of other stuff.

Likely you'll see some seemingly duplicate listings under there, too.

For example, mine (I did a re-install of Windoze myself, without wiping the whole disk) has:

"C:\Documents and Settings\Bob Schmedlap"
"C:\Documents and Settings\Bob Schmedlap.BOBSLAPTOP"

(note: Schmedlap is not my real name... Smile )

Notice the duplicate entries for my name? The second one contains an addendum: the name of my laptop after a period.

Yours will be similar. Your old name will likely be plain, and the new one will have some additional identifying characters.

If you've re-up Windoze several times without re-formatting, you may have a whole slew of these. Grin

In that case? Sort by DATE in Windows Explorer (Under VIEW, change to DETAILS.....this is your default view, right? And not those stupid ICONIC view windoze defaults to? If you said "yes" you're a geek....! Smile )

Anyway, under DETAIL view, you can sort by date by clicking on the DATE header....

Your next-to-the-newest "Rayven xxx" will be your previous folder, with all those lovely favorites, e-mails, desktops, etc, etc, etc.

The newest directory is the one just created by Windoze.

Now, drill down into those folders, and you'll find a treasure-trove of stuff.

I *always* leave it there, and *copy* it to the new folders. That way, I've just created an ersatz backup...

If you use FireFox and ThunderBird, restoring all your old E-mails and Favorites is a snap.

Start each of those, to create the profile folders. THEN EXIT THEM. Important! If you don't exit, they will write over what you're about to do. IN Thunderbird, create a fake e-mail account and such-- say "foo". It doesn't matter, you're going to copy over it anyway.

Now, drill down in the next-to-latest folders: Look for "Application Data"

Hint: You may need to enable hidden folders, under Windows Explorer (if you've already enabled hidden files and folders? You're a geek, or else you've had a geek look at your computer...Smile ). To enable this, in WE go into TOOL--OPTIONS, and click on the VIEW tab. Under that is a nice list of various things you can change within Windows Explorer... (if you already know about this list, you're a geek. Sorry. )

Anyway, under Application Data folder, there's various sub-folders.

For FireFox, look for Mozilla. Now. Copy the ENTIRE sub-folders under the "Mozilla" from the next-to-latest into the latest. Replace ALL the files, even if the ones being copied are older.

Viola! You've just restored your FireFox settings, extensions, favorites, etc, etc, etc. Couldn't be easier-- which is *another* reason why I don't use IE.

Oh, and unless you moved your FireFox cache into a non-default location? You will have restored that, too-- complete with all your lovely cookies, many of which let you auto-login to various websites... If you moved it, just re-move it, and point to the folder you set before (geek!)

Thunderbird is a bit more obscure. Drill down under Application Data, to Thunderbird. Open Profiles. Under that, you'll see a string of random letters.

There will be two sets of these, if you've created the dummy e-mail profile (you did that, right? Okay, go make it now.) One in the next-to-latest, and one in the latest.

Open the next-to-latest random-string. Now, click on the top sub-folder under that just once. Hold down the SHIFT key, and click the LAST file under the random-string directory. This highlights everything, including all the lovely subfolders. Press CONTROL-C to copy this.

Now, go back to your latest profile random-string folder under the "profiles" under Thunderbird. Open the random-string folder in there. Click somewhere *other* than a file or folder, but in the right-hand pane.

Press CONTROL-V to paste the contents from your next-to-last profile over the top of your dummy profile (now you see why you had to do that) and answer "replace" to any duplicate filename questions.

That's it! You've just restored your Thunderbird e-mails, complete with profiles, passwords, old mails, learned SPAM rules, etc, etc.

Doing the same sort of thing in Outlook or OE? *sigh* it takes a miracle. Or else you have to fiddle with registry files, which is worse (to recover the passwords and e-mail settings).

As for your desktop? That is under the folder named "desktop" oddly enough. You'd *think* MicroSuck would've made that more obscure.... <eyeroll>

And your old customized start menu links and settings is under, oddly enough the easy-to-understand folder "Start Menu".....

There's a generic set of "start menu" under the generic profile named "all users" and "all users.BOBSLAPTOP" (in my case). Some of the menu and desktop items may be lurking in there, if you did an install to "all users" and the installer was behaving badly.... drill down and look for "desktop" and "start menu". There's little else in those that is interesting.
Edited by Bob of QF on 03/05/2009 23:00
Quantum Junction: Use both lanes

Reality is that which is left, after you stop believing.
Thanks for writing all that Bob. I all ready knew where to look for things but that post is going to be very helpful for others who may need to find their old stuff after a reinstallation.

I still have a ton of crap to install and I have three xp installations on the drive. I'll get it all straightened out over the next few days. I did luck out and find my old desktop in the old admin folder, so I can access a bunch of stuff I thought was lost. Once I retrieve everything I'll delete the extra installations, unless I decide to keep one for dual booting.

I'm going to buy a new external and transfer things I don't want to lose to it in case this drive is going bad.

I love computers but they can be annoying at times.
Edited by RayvenAlandria on 03/06/2009 00:03
Hint: You may need to enable hidden folders, under Windows Explorer (if you've already enabled hidden files and folders? You're a geek, or else you've had a geek look at your computer...Smile ). To enable this, in WE go into TOOL--OPTIONS, and click on the VIEW tab. Under that is a nice list of various things you can change within Windows Explorer... (if you already know about this list, you're a geek. Sorry. )

LOL. Yeah, I'm a geek.
DAMN, I wish I was there to stop you before all this headache that you are about to encounter. Do everything you are going to do. Get the external drive. the best option I have found for myself and most is a 120GB SATA laptop drive and buy a SATA external enclosure(both drive and enclosure are 3½in) make sure the enclosure is a USB2.0 compatible or you will have a fit when copying gooooeeeessssss get the picture and it gets worse when you have over 30GB to transfer. Once you get all that done then get back to this thread because you have a long way to go to make your system stable and clean again.
BtW, I will be out for a few days as I am building a few new computers and will be without access. OH, I will record the building process so maybe a few of you can learn from it Grin I can probably get catman to swap out a CD-ROM drive by the end of a video with the way I teach. Oh well you all can be the judges. See you all in a few
I have three externals CD, but they are full of movies and stuff so I'm going to go buy a couple specifically for emergency winblows boots, backups, and storage of important files I don't want to loose. I may get laptop harddrives and enclosures like you suggested, they take up less space.

I've had more than one external fail on me, so I'm going to get more than one backup drive. I wish harddrives were built better. I suspect they could make them last longer but they want consumer to have to keep buying new ones. I had a WD mybook fail six months after I got it.

See, I know what I'm supposed to do, I've just been lazy over the last year and wasn't making backups. I kept procrastinating about buying extra harddrives because I didn't want to spend the money and sure enough, I had a corrupted registry so bad it took me completely down.

At least I think that's what happened. I updated flash and I am assuming it fried the registry. Nothing else was installed that day, so it was ether flash or my harddrive or memory are going bad.

I really need to update my main box but since we still haven't sold the house in Mississippi I have not wanted to spend the money for a new computer. Paying two mortgages is rough. Once the house is sold I plan to buy a whole new system.

Now I gotta hope this one lasts that long. :eek:
Bob of QF
With regards to external drives? The most cost-efficient way, is to by a good brand of *box* (sans drive). An enclosure, that is. SATA/USB, whatever flavor you like, doesn't matter all that much, if you are starting out.

Then, purchase from the on-line wholesellers 3 or 4 drives compatible with the enclosure's format (SATA, PATA, whatever....3.5, or laptop 2.5, etc.)

By the way, the 3.5 form-factor is much cheaper per megabyte than the 2.5 form factor, but the 2.5's are more robust when being jostled about. If you are careful about moving the thing, when it's powered-on, the 3.5's are roughly 10 to 1 increase bang-for-the-buck. But, desktop 3.5's are more sensitive to sudden movements. You'll just have to judge your possible usage.

Anyway, this is the best and most cost-effective method. Those dedicated external drives often have the el-cheapo electronics that "hook" the drive between your PC and the USB or SATA interface. And 99 out of 100 times, that is what has failed on the dedicated externals, too: if you can figure out how to crack the case, and get at the guts/drive inside? You can likely get at the data just fine, by hooking it into a *quality* external housing.

Those dedicated are attractive, but not a good investment, in my opinion.


Alternatively, an even better solution, is to make a "box of drives" running Linux of one flavor or another. Buy a cheapo used PC box from a computer recycler. Specify to them you want Linux, not Windoze and save $50.

Then stuff that baby with as many hard drives as the mobo has hooks for.

Or, buy a multi-SATA PCI card, drop that in, and stuff away. I've seen 8 SATA drive boxes built up this way.

Leave an old and slow small PATA drive for the Linux distro to run quietly on, and let the SATA drives be network shares.

With Linux, you don't even need a keyboard/mouse or screen! Just terminal in from a networked Windoze box, and control it from there.

Once set up, you'll stash this in a closet somewhere or other... put it on a battery-backup, and it'll never go down on you.

But, it's a boat-load of initial work, which is why I don't have one of those myself.

I use a quality external enclosure...
Edited by Bob of QF on 03/06/2009 19:11
Quantum Junction: Use both lanes

Reality is that which is left, after you stop believing.
OMG Bob..HAHAHA I can't believe i didn't catch myself on that...YES the drives/enclosures you want are 2½in

I have to FULLY agree on the "made for external" backup devices. They are horrid. I always opt to my customers to get the solution you provided, Bob. An entire comp to be made into a file server. Many of them want to go cheap instead because I charge a LOT for those servers. The cheap 150$ external enclosure blows its power pack after a month, 6mo later their computers crash. They call me and come to find out they don't have any backups for the last 5mo cause that POS failed and they weren't warned. With the way I set the file server up, you WILL know if it fails. Then they get pissed at me because I didn't warn them. Yeah, well it was on the bill that you declined the server for the cheap enclosure. This is YOUR fault. I don't have them as a client anymore. You threaten not to pay me and I drop you like a bad habit.

OH, I'd stay away from the internal IDE or SATA cards. Just get a MOBO with 8 sata ports. My new one has 6 SATA internal and two external. I plan on switching my current USB2.0 enclosure to the SATA since it has both. I say stay away from the cards because they are MUCH slower than a direct shot to the MOBO. Well, maybe not so much now with the PCI-e products. I have been letting my hardware knowledge slip the more and more I get into Server Administration. Hopefully that video will get me back into that "teaching" mode and I'll refresh my memory.
Bob of QF
I agree the cards are slower than direct-to-the motherboard.

But, over a 100 megabit network (which is what most folk run in their homes, even though 1000 megabit is available, who gets routers with that speed? The 100 megabit ones are more common....) you won't notice all that much between a direct-on-mb versus a card-slot drive.

The whole idea is some available mega-storage different than the main box.

A box of drives is a whole level superior to a single-drive enclosure, but not as good as a couple of box-o-drives.... <heh> nor as good as a box-o-drives *and* a secondary enclosure external to *that* ....

...there's any number of ways to go, really.

I like the el-cheapo box-o-drives built from a used PC running some flavor of Linux. Since I'm not wanting to spend a great deal of time-o on this, I've got these from the local PC recyclers, and all I had to do was install the additional drives (after upgrading the power supply). Sometimes I had to cobble a "tree" to hold all the extra drives from rattling around-- don't need to be elegant or all that firm, just enough to hold'em still. The box-o-drives machine is going in a closet, or under a table, or in the back room next to the cable modem and router... It ain't gonna be moved again, until I desire to add more drives...

I call it "semi-turnkey", in that I start with a working linux box, complete with a smallish drive for the Linux distro, and so on. These can be had for under $200 complete-- and they usually toss in el-cheapo keyboard & mousie. Useful for emergencies... (the kb & mouse, I mean).

Then, I add in a nice quality-brand power supply in the 500+ watt range, a brand-name SATA card, some home-brewed drive brackets, and 2 to 8 SATA drives. And, maybe an extra case fan...

The cost per megabyte of this is actually cheaper by far than a slew of dedicated external drives, and only slightly higher than a quality enclosure and a passel of drives. The difference is that with the enclosure, only ONE of the drives is on line at any given moment. With the box-o-drives, you have all of them online.... all those lovely drive letters....

....and no, I don't much mess with RAID myself. I screwed around with it for a bit, found it more trouble than any benefit I could fathom.

The performance gain was not worth the increased risk (Obviously, I'm talking of striping or a volume install, not a redundant install).

The redundant RAID is attractive, but I prefer the manual, multiple physical drives method instead. And I'm anal retentive enough to make that work.

Never lost anything I couldn't easily replace....
Quantum Junction: Use both lanes

Reality is that which is left, after you stop believing.
My router is a Gig router.

I will probably turn my computer into an extra storage network device when I upgrade. Y'all have some good ideas.

When I booted this morning there were tons of orphaned files, corruptions etc...checkdisk took a long while to fix them all.

I may have a bad drive or bad memory. I'll be running tests today. The stupid drive is only about a year old, it's a 500G Western Digital.

I guess I'll have to pull the case out from under the desk and do some work on it. I'll probably go buy a new hard drive, or have one delivered from newegg.
It doesn't sound like memory. Or you'd be getting blue screens and errors that are not file related. Trust me, you will know the difference when you see one. The HDD, it is a possibility but, WD is a very good drive manufacturer and I have hard time believing that after one year it is crapped out on you. I have one that I am putting in my Linux box tonight that is over 7yrs old.

The biggest reason it is doing what it is doing is that you did what is known as a "dirty" install. Re-installing Windows over a previously bad copy without formatting should only be temporary to recover files. After that; debug, fdisk, format, install
I used to think WD made good drives, but after this I have decided to avoid them. This drive and the Mybook are WD products and both failed within a year.

I am running diagnostics off the Hiren's boot cd. I'll test what I can and then pull the box out from under the desk and have a look.

I did have a few corruptions over the last month, nothing serious, but I let checkdisk fix them. Then this major problem, with the system config file going south.

I've also had a few errors in WoW but I assumed it was WoW, their coding is absolute crap, so I just assumed the "could not write so and so to memory" errors were the game's fault. Since WoW has it's own little rootkit it's always possible it is what fried windows. The game is not written well and every patch seems to make it worse.

I'll probably end up reformatting this drive. I'm hoping I can keep it stable for a week or so until I decide exactly what I want to buy. I think I'll hook up an external and pull off any vital files I can think of in case it bricks for good though. I plan on doing that when the defrag is done.

Oh BTW, it wasn't a dirty install, it made a new copy of windows. The old one is in a separate folder. It may have been dirty as in I didn't format the drive, but it didn't install over the old windows. I agree it would be better to reformat though, and I'll probably end up doing that.
Edited by RayvenAlandria on 03/07/2009 16:30
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