BOOT CAMP 336 (27/07/04)




Following on from last week’s guide to troubleshooting Windows XP problems using the System Configuration facility (msconfig) we’re going to look at what to do if XP simply refuses to boot following a major crash.


XP Home and Pro have a very useful feature called ‘Repair Install’, which basically means you can replace a faulty XP setup without loosing your data or any of the applications and hardware installed on your PC’s hard drive, in theory at least…


In practice it usually does work but you shouldn’t rely on it, don’t take the risk and get into the habit of making frequent backups of all of your irreplaceable data. It is also prudent to keep a record of your passwords and PINs as these could be lost during reinstallation, just remember to keep them in a safe and secure place! Normally XP won’t require re-activation following a Repair Install but see Tip of the Week for a way to preserve your Product Activation Key.


In order to do a Repair Install you will need your original Windows XP CD-ROM. If your PC came with XP pre-installed your PC should have been supplied with a set of recovery discs, in which case you will need to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. In most cases recovery discs will wipe the hard drive so it is even more important that you have a full set of data backups, as well as the installation discs for all of the programs that you use.


Before you start a Repair Install it is a good idea to disconnect any peripherals (scanner, modem, web cam, etc.) but you can leave the printer; this should help to speed up the installation process. With your XP disc to hand the first step is to tell the computer to boot from it and this involves entering the PC’s BIOS program. The method varies but it normally entails pressing a key, or combination of keys immediately after switch on. A message to this effect usually flashes up on the screen when you first switch on, something like ‘To enter setup press Del’. Other common BIOS codes include F1, F10, Ins, Esc, Alt + Esc, Ctrl + Esc, Ctrl + Alt + Esc and Ctrl + Alt + Enter. If none of these work refer to your PC or motherboard manual or consult the manufacturer’s web site or Helpline.


When the BIOS screen appears you will see a set of menu options, look for one labelled Boot or Startup and select the item ‘Boot Order’, or ‘First Boot’; this will be set to HD0, HD1 or the serial number of your hard disc drive; make a note of it because you will need to reset it later on. Change the setting to read CD, CD-ROM or the serial number of your CD/DVD ROM drive, Save the Change and Exit the BIOS. Open the CD-ROM drive, pop in your XP disc and reboot.


You will now see a screen message saying ‘Press any key to boot from CD’, press the spacebar and a message appears informing you that ‘Setup is inspecting your hardware configuration’. After a few moments this will be replaced by a blue screen, press Enter and you should see a ‘Welcome to Setup’ menu, press Esc to continue; important, DO NOT press R for Repair as this will start another XP troubleshooting utility called the Recovery Console, which is the subject of next week’s Boot Camp. The Windows Licence Agreement will now be displayed, press F8 to signify acceptance and the next screen will list your operating system (usually just Windows XP), select it and proceed to the next screen, which will have the option ‘To Repair the Selected Windows installation press R’. Hit the R key and the installation begins.


Windows Setup will now go through what looks like a normal installation routine so sit back with a cup of tea and be ready to respond to the various prompts that appear on the screen, it’s a good idea to accept the default settings offered. When Setup has finished, following a couple of reboots you should see your original desktop with all of your shortcuts applications and programs. It’s worth checking one or two of them to make sure they are working properly. When you are happy everything is okay you should reboot to the BIOS menu and return the First Boot/Boot Order to its original setting.  


You can now set about reconnecting the peripherals. To be on the safe side only do one at a time and although it shouldn’t be necessary you might be asked to load a driver disc, so have them ready. After each item has been successfully installed reboot Windows. By the way, this is a good time to check the peripheral manufacturer’s web sites for any updated drivers. All recently installed XP Service Packs and patches should have been carried across to the new installation, nevertheless you should still pay a visit to the Windows Update website (

en/default.asp) to make sure. (Start > Help and Support then under ‘Pick a Task’ click ‘Keep your computer up to date…’).


Finally check that all of your hardware settings have been restored by going to Device Manager by right-clicking on My Computer, select the Hardware tab and click the Device Manager button; look for any yellow exclamation marks that indicate a device or hardware problem. If you see one double-click the item concerned, click the Troubleshoot button and follow the prompts.


Next week – XP Recovery Console





Basic Input Output System, a program stored in a microchip memory on the PC motherboard that checks and configures the hardware, memory and disc drives, before the operating system is loaded



A set of utilities and tools for advanced users employing DOS-like ‘commands’ designed to help repair a failed installation and recover files



Collection of updates, patches and fixes issued by Microsoft to repair bugs and plug security loopholes




Windows XP normally only needs to be reactivated following a clean install on a freshly formatted hard drive but occasionally the Product Activation Key may be lost during a reinstall, in which case you will have to go though the activation process. You can avoid this by making a copy of the file C:\windows\system32\wpa.dbl on a floppy disc (it’s less than 20kb) and keep it somewhere safe. If following a reinstallation you are asked to reactivate Windows simply rename the existing \wpa.dpl file to \wpa.old and copy your backup file from the floppy into the same location.

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