XP reinstall problem: lost key

Bernduffy February 10, 2009 at 08:02:13
Specs: Windows XP
Was having screen frezes and sudden restarts so after running chkdsk /r as well as restore a couple of times, decided to reinstall XP from disc. All was going well, until it asked for key #. The original key label, was glued to the sleeve but has fallen of: can't find it.
Now at start up I get error: WINDOWS\SYTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM. Can't figure out the work araound on this. Any ideas? Eternally grateful...

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February 10, 2009 at 08:19:29
If you can somehow go in safe mode, this program will tell you what your product key is:


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February 10, 2009 at 08:55:47
1st try tapping the F8 key during bootup & see if you can access Safe Mode. If not, reboot, tap F8 again but this time try Last Known Good Configuration. If that doesn't work, try this:


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February 10, 2009 at 10:40:44
"decided to reinstall XP from disc. All was going well, until it asked for key #."

In that case,
- if you deleted the existing partition Windows was on or it's data contents before you ran Setup, there is definately no longer any Product Key on your computer to find, even if you could access a partially installed Windows installation.
- if you left the partition Windows is on and it's data intact, and chose to try the second Repair option in Setup, what many call a Repair install, it leaves most of the data on the partition Windows is on intact, but it deletes a lot of Windows settings including some in the registry and re-makes them later on in Setup, and there is probably no longer any Product Key on your computer to find, even if you could access a partially installed Windows installation.

In the first case and probably the second, if you don't know what you Product Key is you need to use a program that can find it BEFORE you run Setup.

If your system is a brand name system, there is usually an official Microsoft sticker on the outside of your case somewhere that has the Product Key on it.
If your system is a brand name system, but you don't see that Product Key, if your computer is not more than about 5 years old, you may be able to buy a Recovery CD set on the maker of the system's website which will reload your entire hard drive with the original software including Windows, often for a lot less than even an OEM XP Home CD costs.

If you have a generic system, or any system that had Windows installed on it from a regular CD, and you wanted to use the Product Key for that,
- if there is no Product Key on the case, you're probably going to have to find the label you lost, or buy yourself an OEM XP CD.
- if you have a brand name system and there is an XP Product Key on the case, it will work with the regular XP CD if the CD is the same version - Home or Pro.

"The original key label, was glued to the sleeve .."

I have not bought anything but OEM XP CDs - Home, and Media Center Edition 2005 (which is a 2 CD set) - in the case of those, and probably OEM XP Pro, the label is not stuck to the sleeve, unless you stuck it there yourself - it's stuck to the plastic wrapping that has the CD and docs inside it.

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February 10, 2009 at 19:20:59
Thanks for all the good info and suggestions...will let you know how it goes.


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February 10, 2009 at 20:55:46
OK: using Mini PE was able to obtain key request screen and enter key. Clean re-install went well...except that the following "other devices" show yellow question marks: Ethernet Controller, PCI Device, RAID Controller, SM Bus Controller, Video Controller. With all this, I can't connect to internet (I have comcast cable) and can't download service pack 2. I think all the yellow items should be on my mainboard (Gigabyte LGA775, GA-81945PL-G) Any ideas?
Thanks in advance!

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February 11, 2009 at 07:42:25
If you have the CD that came with the mboard, all the drivers for those things Windows did not find the drivers for that are producing the yellow balloons with the ? on them beside devices in Device Manager that are built into the mboard are on the CD, and can be installed from that CD. If you don't have the mboard CD, you can go to the Gigabyte web site and look up the downloads for your model, and download all that apply and install them.
You need at least the drivers for the network adapter on the mboard if it's built into the mboard, or the drivers for a network adapter on a card in a slot if that's what you're using, in order to connect to the internet; if you don't have the mboard CD, you could download just that on another computer and copy it to a flash drive, then use that flash drive on your own computer and copy it to your computer and then run the installation. As soon as your network adapter isworking, sooner or later you will be asked to Activate Windows, or you can select that in your Programs list - do that - usually that works fine when you choose to do that over the internet. You DO NOT have to register Windows. Doing that usually automatically finds the settings your computer needs to connect to the internet. (If it doesn't, you won't be able to Activate Windows, and you will have to do some additional steps.)
Then, if you like, you can then download the other drivers you need from the Gigabyte web site, rather than having to download those on another computer and having to transfer them all to your own computer by means of a flash drive, or whatever.

The first thing, or one of the first things, you should install are the main chipset drivers.
NOTE that the Gigabyte web site may not have the main chipset drivers for your mboard.

Whenever you load Windows from a regular Windows CD (or DVD) from scratch, after Setup is finished you must load the drivers for the mboard, particularly the main chipset drivers, in order for Windows to have the proper drivers for and information about your mboard hardware, including it's AGP or PCI-E, ACPI, and hard drive controller support. If you have a generic system and have the CD that came with the mboard, all the necessary drivers are on it. If you load drivers from the web, brand name system builders and mboard makers often DO NOT have the main chipset drivers listed in the downloads for your model - in that case you must go to the maker of the main chipset's web site, get the drivers, and load them.

If your mboard has built in USB 2.0 hardware support, you will have USB 1.1 support by default but you won't actually have USB 2.0 support until the main chipset drivers have been loaded, AND if the XP CD does not have at least SP1 updates built in (if it does, SP1 [or SP2 or SP3] will be shown in System Information on the first screen you see on the right) you will not have USB 2.0 support loaded until AFTER you have loaded at least SP1 or SP2 updates.

If there are still devices that show up in Device Manager with the yellow balloon with the ? on it after you have installed the main chipset drivers and the drivers for the mboard, you will need to get drivers for those too, and install them the right way.
E.g. for a card in a slot including a video card; or a printer, a web cam, a camera, if they're plugged in.
In many cases devices that are plugged into USB ports - e.g. printers, web cams, cameras, etc., must have the drivers and apps (other associated programs) installed first with the device NOT plugged in, THEN you plug in the USB connection or USB device.

I advise that you to NOT install anti-malware (anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-trojan etc.) software until AFTER all your devices are working - their resident modules (the part that runs all the time) can interfere with the software or driver installation.
It is prefectly safe to access major web sites that are well protected before you have installed anti-malware software. E.g. The Microsoft web site, the Microsoft Updates page on that site, Gigabyte web sites; AMD/ATI, Intel, Via, NVidia web sites (for main chipset or video drivers or network adapter drivers), the Adobe web site (for flash and shockwave players, and Acrobat Reader), and major anti-malware web sites. Just don't randomly search for other things or go to other places on the internet until after the anti-malware software has been installed.

When you install Windows from scratch, One of the first things Microsoft Updates or Automatic Update will want to install these days is SP3 updates. Since there have been many reports of having major problems when you attempt to install SP3 updates when anti-malware siftware has been installed, I recommend you either do not have it installed when you install SP3 updates, or un-install it if you have installed it (preferable), or you disable all resident modules in the anti-malware software before you install SP3 updates (in some cases, e.g. for Norton/Symantec software, you may have major problems even if you do disable resident modules - the best thing to do is either not have anti-malware soiftware installed, or un-install it if you do, before you load SP3 updates.)

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