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I have gotten myself into a mess with this one. My friends XP Pro computer locked up solid on a windows update. The only solution that seemed open to me was to do an XP repair install which I did. I think the machine had XP3 on it but I used an XP2 disk to do the repair install which may be the problem.

Right now, it goes to a login screen. When I login with correct password, it says it can't be used until XP is registered. I click 'Yes' and it goes to a blank desktop (with friends wallpaper on it) but nothing works at all. It doesn't ask me to register the software, ctrl-alt-del doesn't work, nor does the windows button on the keyboard, or alt-tab. I also tried a game cd to see would it pop on auto load but it didn't.

I can't go into safe mode as it has to be registered to go into safe mode.

Any suggestions greatly appreciated.

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Last Post by donaldw
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I don't think registration is necessary, but you may need to activate your copy of Windows.

See here: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/307890 for several methods of activation (unfortunately, I think they all require you to be able to get in to windows).

If you can get to a prompt before the GUI tries to come up, maybe you can try a CHKDSK.

It may just be that your OS install is toast and the repair didn't fix whatever was wrong. Try using a bootable OS CD like knoppix or ubuntu and see if they function normally; that can rule out hardware failure.

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Hi Donald. Thanks for the quick reply.
Sorry, I meant activate. Yes, it looks like I am out of luck as all of them need windows to be up and running. I tried ubuntu and it boots into the live cd no problem. I can browse the hard drive and surf the net no problem. I had tested the hardware extensively before anyway, so I didn't have any concerns there.

Should I try to slipstream a SP3 cd and do another repair install, or would that potentially toast the OS? It will be very difficult to rebuild it with a fresh install as this machine is used in her shop as her cash register and stock control and the vendor who sold it to her won't support it without big bucks.

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I've never had much luck trying to repair Windows installations, particularly from a different CD than that from which it was installed. Aside from that, I don't think anyone here can/will advocate downloading proprietary MS products.

Both repair installs and fresh installs are kind of a crap shoot in my experience. A big factor is where your friend has her important data saved. If it's in a C:\foo\ drive or somewhere like that, you can sometimes re-install windows (without reformatting, obviously -- I think the install-time option is something like "leave current filesystem in place") without FUBAR-ing everything, but that is usually a big hassle since it can mess up shortcuts, the registry, start menu, etc. If it does come down to having to do that, use a live-CD to copy as much important data as you can to an external HDD or other storage and you can possibly import it back into her bookkeeping, stock control, etc. software.

You can try calling up MS and telling them that you did a repair install and want to activate your windows. Tell them you're at the "do you want to activate" screen and are going to click the "yes" button now......"uh, operator, nothing seems to be happening...what do I do?" and see if they can give you some support there. They may just tell you to wipe the whole thing though.
I'd try this once more before wiping everything though. If it does come down to that unfortunate scenario, consider putting in a second HDD or partitioning the HDD such that the OS is on one HDD or a small partition and everything else (personal documents, business data, etc.) is on another HDD or partition; that way nuking the OS and reinstalling it isn't as big of a deal.

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Thanks Donald. Before I did any of this I removed the drive and copied the contents of the whole drive to a safe location. I should have done a ghost or disk copy probably but didn't. So, the data is safe in a way.

I dread to think how I would even start to configure the PC again though if I had to do a fresh windows install. I know nothing about the machine really.

I got into safe mode somehow even though it isn't activated and ran SP3 from there. I rebooted and it doesn't seem to have changed anything. It still gets to the blank screen and stops there.

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Great forethought on backing up the data, it's amazing how common it is for users to get frustrated and just nuke the disk only later to realize that everything's gone.

Any idea how you got into safe mode? Can you get there consistently? If so maybe you can try rolling back to a previous restore point (if present) or uninstalling the last few hotfixes.

Was the OS already activated and everything before the initial problem? I wouldn't guess that it would have needed activated again after a repair, but maybe.

Just to be on the same page, you turn it on, it prompts you for login, you enter user-name and password, then it shows you the desktop with no start-bar/icons/etc. and is unresponsive to keystrokes...is that right? Does the mouse move? Do the num/caps/scroll lock lights light up on the keyboard when you press those keys?

I don't know if it will help or show you any failure messages, but enabling verbose mode could possibly shed some light on things :?:

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