|"Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \windows\system32\config\system"|
There are four possible similar messages you can get.
When certain files are missing or more likely corrupted there in \windows\system32\config\,
fixing that normally requires that you have an XP CD and a built in optical drive.
- the following mentions what may be an error that is worded differently but the procedure for you is the same.
For an answer about what to do about it, see response 3 in this (emachines system):
Using an external optical drive usually does NOT work with an XP (or 2000) CD, because the files initially loaded from the CD cannot recognize most if not all USB optical drive models. In that case, even if you can get the bios Setup to boot a bootable disk from a USB optical drive, all you get is a blue screen when the XP (or 2000) CD tries to load. You get the same result if you load the 6 floppy set that is intended for computers that cannot boot a disk from their optical drive and then try to continue Setup from the CD in the external drive.
You may have only these choices if the XP CD cannot recognize the USB optical drive model.
If you can set the bios to boot from a USB device....
use something such as a Linux CD to boot the computer from a USB optical drive with,
OR - prepare a USB flash drive so it is bootable and install Linux on it, boot from that
and copy the personal data you don't want to lose to elsewhere.
OR - connect the drive to another computer and copy the personal data you don't want to lose to elsewhere.
Then have a USB flash drive that is prepared to make it bootable, and follow a procedure so that you can install XP from scratch from the USB drive.
Search for: install XP from a flash drive
or similar on the web to find what you need to do.
If you can't set the bios to boot from a USB device, or if you want to try another way, copy the personal data you don't want to lose to elsewhere, then
How to install XP from scratch when you can't load files from the XP CD on the computer, and when you cannot set your bios Setup to boot from a USB drive.
See response 5, 6, and 7: