By Kristopher A. Nelson in

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So what do you do when your wife’s computer says this?

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

Why, this of course: How to recover from a corrupted registry that prevents Windows XP from starting

Of course, we couldn’t find her Windows XP recovery CD, so we borrowed one from a neighbor (thank goodness for neighbors). Lots of command-line fun later (and randomly moving backwards in time to various “snapshots” until one worked) XP booted again! But only to the “Admin” user. No other user accounts existed. Back to the command line. Whee! (Why can’t MS include BASH? It gets really old typing full paths with no auto-complete and no command history…) Let’s mix and match snapshots! Let’s stir up those registry hives!

Yes! We have users again! But no networking. No Ethernet, no 802.11b. What?

Uninstall random stuff, starting with the virus checker. That did it—apparently an old Norton Anti-virus registry entry (the software was gone, but I recovered its registry entry, I guess) interfered with networking. What? What? That makes no sense, you say?

And you’d be right. Not that it matters.