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" And to top it all the on board recovery isn't working. "
If you mean the Recovery program feature built into the bios isn't working that allows you to restore the original brand name system supplied software installation, that won't work
- if the original software installation isn't there on the hard drive
- or - if the data is there that the Recovery program requires but it's corrupted for whatever reason.
If the data is there but it's corrupted for whatever reason, the FIRST thing you should do is test the hard drive to make sure it is not in the process of failing.
A standard way of doing that when Windows isn't working properly is to use a hard drive diagnostics program on a bootable CD, in your case from a USB optical drive.
You may be able to do that from a USB flash drive that has been made bootable too, but I don't know the procedure. .
Or, you could remove the hard drive and connect it to another computer one way or another and test your hard drive in Windows on that other computer.
If your hard drive is SATA, that's easy. The SATA data and power sockets on laptop / netbook drives are identical to those on desktop SATA drives - you can connect your drive internally to any desktop computer that has SATA data headers by using a SATA data cable and a spare SATA power connector.
Check your hard drive with the manufacturer's diagnostics.
See the latter part of response 1 in this:
If you don't have a floppy drive, you can get a CD image diagnostic utility from most hard drive manufacturer's web sites, but obviously you would need to make a burned CD, preferably a CD-R for best compatibility, on another computer if you need to.
Seagate's Seatools will test (almost) any brand of hard drive.
Do the long test.
The bootable Dos versions of SeaTools can be used even if Windows is not working properly, however they can't test the drive when it's installed in an external enclosure - the Windows version of SeaTools can.
If the hard drive itself tests okay, any data problems found can be fixed, one way or another.
If you connect the hard drive to another computer you can use the Windows version of SeaTools on the other computer to test the drive with.
If the hard drive itself does NOT pass the tests,
- you need to replace the hard drive,
- and you need to either
- buy the Recovery disk set for your model,
- or - install just Windows XP from a USB flash drive - the procedure is on the web, and you'll need a Microsoft OEM XP CD of the same version as is installed on the hard drive - Home or Pro - along with the Product Key that's on the official Microsoft label on the outside of the netbook case (usually it's on the bottom if it). . A Microsoft OEM CD has "For distribution with a new PC only." printed on it, and the Microsoft holograms on it.
If the hard drive itself passes the tests.......
"windows cannot start because the following file is missing or corrupt
windows system32 config system"
You mis-quoted that but I know what you're referring to.
"It then tells me to insert windows cd
"....I'm trying to recover a netbook, so no cd drive anyway/"
A major problem with a netbook that has XP on it that has no optical drive built in is it usually does NOT work to use a external USB optical drive with the XP CD in it because usually, if not always, the initial files loaded from the XP CD CANNOT recognize the external USB optical drive model. In that case the XP CD is recognized as bootable if the Boot Order or similar settings are set correctly for booting from the USB optical drive in the bios, but all you see is a blue screen and nothing further happens.
However if you have or can borrow or if you buy an external USB optical drive, you can use any bootable disk other than an XP disk that has an operating system on it that can read all the data o the drive to fix the problem you're having,
- OR, you could do the same thing with a USB flash drive that has been prepared to be bootable and has an operating system installed on it such as Linux that can read all the data on the hard drive.
- Or, you could remove the hard drive and connect it to another computer one way or another and do the procedure on your hard drive in Windows on that other computer.
If your hard drive is SATA, that's easy. The SATA data and power sockets are identical to those o desktop SAT drives - you can connect your drive internally to any desktop computer that has SATA data headers by busing a SATA data cable and a spare SATA power connector.
How to recover from a corrupted registry that prevents Windows XP from starting
My notes - Copy, Paste, Print this in Wordpad for the best result.
or - CAN PRINT THIS ARTICLE from online at the above link
Instead of using the Windows CD......
- use anything to boot the computer from that has an operating system on it that can read all the data on the drive
- OR - you could connect the hard drive to another computer
... and do the same things the article tells you to do - replace the existing files it names with their default versions.