Two days ago, my laptop refused to boot. It was showing a blank (blue) screen and then kept rebooting. It could not even boot using the Last Known Good Configuration or the Safe Mode…
I was worried. I didn’t want to lose my data. I didn’t want to run the recovery software which is installed on the laptop because I didn’t want to lose my data, and I had so many useful programs installed on the computer which I could not afford to lose either. I went to a computer fair and I spent more than $150 to buy a new hard drive, cables and cloning software. The technician was very nice and helpful. He could only try to repair Windows after backing up my data. I sat in a corner and started the full cloning of my 120 GB hard disk. It took ages. After 1 hour and half, somebody unplugged by error the extension lead on which the whole system was running and we lost everything we had done. I was nervous. I prayed God to help me remain calm and I started the same process again.
The cloning process took again ages, but it was progressing. But after 2 hours, the technician wanted to see how far it had gone. He moved the laptop a little, and one of the USB cables which was connecting to one of the hard drives went out. Again, everything lost. I was devastated. It was already too late and I decided to go back home. I had not eaten the whole day and I was very tired and hungry.
Anyway, my plans for Sunday were now changed: I had to sort that problem out and recover the data on my laptop.
On Sunday, after making a full backup of the hard disk, I used the Windows XP CD to boot and I was hoping to be able to repair the operating system. But I could not repair using the Recovery Console as I had forgotten the Administrator’s password. And the setup would not allow me to log in the recovery console with a user other than Administrator.
At the end, I said: why not try something else? I wrote down the failure message quickly displayed by Windows at the blue screen before dumping and ‘googled’ it in order to see if Microsoft suggests some solutions.
The message was:
STOP: C0000218 {Registry File Failure} The registry cannot load the hive (file):\System Root\System32\Config\SOFTWARE or its log or alternate. It is corrupt, absent, or not writable.

After some research and reading, I finally found a good and easy solution.
Remove the failing hard disk from your machine.
Connect it to another machine. I did it through USB port. If you don’t have the necessary USB cables to connect it, you can mount it as slave in the host machine.
Follow the instructions given by Microsoft at http://support.microsoft.com/Default.aspx?kbid=307545
Identify the section relevant to your situation (in my case, I followed the instructions relating to Windows XP Professional using the NTFS File System on a Workgroup or Standalone Computer).
Go to the folder c:\System Volume Information folder and identify the last restore point. N.B. Microsoft gives also instructions how to access the System Volume Information folder: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/309531/.
From the snapshot folder of your chosen restore point, copy the file _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SOFTWARE and paste it into the C:\windows\system32\config\  folder.
In the C:\windows\system32\config\ folder, rename the file SOFTWARE to SOFTWARE.old
Rename _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SOFTWARE to SOFTWARE.
N.B. Depending on the type of failure message you had, you might need to do the same process with the files SECURITY, SYSTEM or SAM.
Close everything. Remove the hard drive from the host computer. Put it back into the computer it belongs to and boot.
Windows will now boot without problem. IT WORKS!
I am happy that the problem is solved. I now have all my programs and all my data. A happy man at the end! And although I spent some money and a lot of time in the process, I have learned something practical. And that is why I am so proud to share it with other computer users.


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