Solution to the error “Windows cannot be started due to a damaged or missing \ WINDOWS \ SYSTEM32 \ config \ system file”

We all know that sometimes the operating system surprises us with new errors and problems that make it difficult for the PC to work, or even prevent its launch. “Windows could not be started due to a damaged or missing \ WINDOWS \ SYSTEM32 \ config \ system file” - one of the most common errors that are mostly encountered by users of the Windows XP operating system (hasn’t been seen on other versions yet, but anything can happen), therefore, this manual is intended more for this OS.

TIP. sometimes the same message can have different end words. For example, instead of “system” it will be written “software”, “default” or “security”.

For a start, let's figure out what it is and where it came from. In simple terms, the computer can not boot due to a damaged registry. Reinstalling a system is the easiest and most effective way to solve a problem, but only if you are not afraid of losing data. This could happen for all sorts of reasons, starting with improperly shutting down the computer and ending with the wear of the hard drive. Of course, in the latter case, it may be necessary to replace the hard drive, but not always. The essence of the error from this does not change, so this guide should help in any of the cases.

Troubleshooting Windows startup error.

OS fix

So, you are trying to turn on the PC, and you receive a message that the file \ Windows \ System32 \ config \ system is damaged. There are two ways to fix the registry: force the system to repair it yourself or fix the error manually. Let's start with a simpler option.

  1. Click "Restart computer". In the process, press F8. Additional boot options appear on the monitor.
  2. Select "Download Last Known Good Configuration".
  3. Restart the computer again and see if the problem is fixed.

This method forces the OS to use the configuration files for which the OS started successfully. Restarting the system again, the error at boot should not appear.

Manual System Restore

If the previous method did not help, it is worth trying to solve the problem manually. In general, your task is to copy backup boot files to the \ system folder from \ repair. There are several ways to do this.

Restore using file manager

Not to say that this method is more difficult than just launching the last successful configuration, but there is one caveat: this method is suitable if you have a boot disk or flash drive with any manager. But if you choose, then the Live CD is best. Writing it to the media is not so problematic, but the program is still useful not only for restoring the system, but also for a banal scan for viruses. So, if you have a disk, we do the following:

  1. Insert the media.
IMPORTANT. if the download is not done, then go to the BIOS and set the priority for USB or CD / DVD, depending on the download resource.

  1. After everything is loaded, we launch the explorer.
  2. In the Explorer itself, we open two tabs (almost all the conductors allow it): in one - the same folder with: \ windows \ system32 \ config \ system, and in the other - the folder with backup files from: \ windows \ repair \ system. Carefully we look at the damaged, according to the system, file - there should be no extension.
TIP. The name of the folders is usually preceded by the letter C, but maybe another if they are on another hard drive.
  1. Copy windows \ repair \ system from the recovery folder to the folder with the error. A window will appear asking for permission to replace the file. We confirm.

There is another, safer way. Damaged data can not be demolished, and renamed, and then from the restore folder to copy the original files.

  1. Reboot and check if the problem is fixed.

Restore using command line

If you don’t have any manager at hand, and the problem needs to be urgently solved, then there is another way using the command line. You can enter it in the following ways:

  • Through safe mode. To do this, as mentioned earlier, press F8 immediately after restarting the PC. However, this mode does not always start, and sometimes does not support the command line.
  • Using media with Windows XP. There you can enter the console and find the same command line. To do this, after the welcome screen appears, press the R key and select the system required for recovery.
  • Using media with Windows 7 or 8. We remember well that we need to “fix” XP, but this option is also acceptable for calling the console. Press Shift + F10 as soon as the language selection window appears.

The next step after opening the command line is to determine the specific name of the damaged file (software, system, sam, default or security) and the exact letter of the system disk on which the OS resides. Two commands are for this purpose:

  • wmic logicaldisk get caption (to find out the drive letter, which is the system drive);
  • dir c: (displays the folders on drive C; if you don’t find there folders with the desired name, view drive D in the same way).

Next, restore the damaged file by writing the following command (for example, system when located on drive C).

Archiving existing files

copy c: \ windows \ system32 \ config \ system c: \ windows \ system32 \ config \ system.bak

Remove problem files

delete c: \ windows \ system32 \ config \ system

Recover from backup

copy c: \ windows \ repair \ system c: \ windows \ system32 \ config \ system

IMPORTANT. commands may vary depending on which particular disk is the file and which of them is damaged.

For example, they can be written like this:

copy c: \ windows \ system32 \ config \ software c: \ windows \ system32 \ config \ software.bak

or so (if the system folder is on disk D):

copy d: \ windows \ system32 \ config \ sam c: \ windows \ system32 \ config \ sam.bak

Similarly, in the future, the commands change when deleting and restoring the file. Exit the console (prescribe and execute the Exit command) and restart the PC. If you entered everything correctly, the message should not appear again.

In some cases, none of the options helps. This can only mean one thing - it's time to reinstall the operating system completely, it will certainly solve the problem. We hope you have succeeded. If something remains unclear, ask questions!