|When you run xp setup and there is evidence of a previous version "around" setup will "usually" find it. It will then offer to repair it or to run a fresh installation.|
Key issue initially - do NOT allow any reformat to occur; simply leave the drive and partitioning as is.
If you opt for a new installation it can go in alongside the one found (same partition); and will go in with different folder name. If the original installation was windows, then this second one will usually go in as winnt (or something like that). The boot files will be rewritten and the previous version added to the newly created boot-menu, and there by its current folder name. The new installation will be set as default OS to boot; the previous one can of course be selected etc. to boot (if it's ok). What I can't recall just now is whether or not new installation will damage (as in lose) your personal stuff; which typically is in c:\MyDocuments folder - as during its installation it will seek to create that folder afresh. My distant memory is that "it will" damage/lose the current contents of that folder. So not the best option to pursue if personal stuff isn't safe elsewhere beforehand.
If you go repair... there are two versions of that. One will attempt it via Recovery Console - and that may lose personal files in the process... So best avoided - personal stuff isn't safe elsewhere at this time...
The other repair approach is a repair installation; in which the OS is installed "over" the current one. This is NOT done via Recovery Console. Instead one declines to repair initially and goes a step or two further. There will then be the option to install it over the current version; and barring accidents... it will preserve (not damage) current MyDocuments folder contents. But again always better to have files safe elsewhere first if possible.
If one can access that MyDocuments folder via say an Ubuntu dvd boot up, one can copy its contents to external storage at least; and it "may" be possible to rename it to something other than its current folder name. After-which any subsequent installation can safely (re)create a new MyDocuments folder; and you can copy the contents of original back later?
This chap/link covers it all with suitably more detailed "how to" info - and the clear warnings of the Recovery Console approach.
The Recovery Routine (aka factory reset/restore) will, as advised by your local techie..., wipe the disk fully and restore it to as it was when the system was delivered; erasing "all your stuff" in the process... Last resort and to be avoided at all times... To be resorted to only when all else has failed; and again ideally when personal stuff has somehow been safeguarded first as above...
Also the image you download (XP with sp3) must be an OEM if your original installation was such; or a non-OEM if it wasn't. You cannot install a non-OEM over an OEM and visa-versa - if you wish to use your current XP key for validation of your installation. OEM and non OEM (retail) keys are different and won't work with other' version (disk/installation).
Again I would take steps to safeguard your personal "stuff" first - regardless of how you set about rebuilding/repairing a working OS. Safer than sorrier rule...?
message edited by trvlr