Corrupt Hard drive or maybe just SAM problem?

Dell Latitude d600
October 3, 2010 at 16:11:33
Specs: Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition, 3GHz / 2048 MB
Hi there,
I've not had this problem in a long while but for some reason this seems more serious.

I have a computer running WIN XP SP3 that I use for writing music. It has no internet etc. Just music software and no access from the outside world, except external harddrives I use to copy music from to email/send to people on my laptop. My laptop is virus free and I'm just saying that now before I get a ton of messages about Viruses.

I was moving some files around yesterday evening and while copying a big file from my main hardrive (C) to another harddrive it crashed/hung. I left it a while but nothing happened. So I pressed the cancel button and nothing happened, then the computer turned itself off! When it restarted I got the heart sinking message of "Windows XP could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM" So, I know from this my SAM is corrupted.

I've had this message before a couple of years ago and I created batch files and recovery txt files to run from the repair console/command prompt once I'd booted off my CD.

BUT, when I boot off my WINXP CD it just gives me the three options of 1.enter to install, 2.C to create a partition and 3.D to delete. It's saying the partition1 on my main drive is "Unknown" ... Which leads me to a question.

Has my master boot record been corrupted? When I restart the machine, I don't get any error about missing OS or missing formatted drive etc...just the message about missing SYSTEM file. When I try to boot in safe mode (all three options) It runs the first three or fours sytem files and then hangs for a while at SYSTEM then moves on to SYSTEM.alt and then gives me the error again. (listed above)
I'm wanting to know if there is anyway I can boot to command prompt using my WINXP CD or some other means. I have no idea what has gone wrong with this drive. I'm hoping it's not starting to fail and therefore not reading from the bootsector anymore. I did get a couple of "Cyclicredundency" errors while copying other files. They are always a serious worry.

Any help/advice would be amazing. I have a reasonable knowledge of windows so please feel free to suggest trickery! Also,I have access to a separate laptop to make Boot CD's and do other configuration if needed.
many thanks

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October 3, 2010 at 18:52:41
Q. Is your harddrive IDE or SATA?

If SATA that is the reason your XP CD cannot see the partition properly since it has no native SATA drivers.

I suggest you download a harddrive diagnostic tool from the drive manufacturer and test the drive integrity. The tools run from boot floppy or CD.

While at it download Memtest86 and check the ram. It also runs from boot floppy or CD

Goin' Fishin' (Some day)

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