How should I address the error message "Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \Winnt\System32\Config\System.ced"?

A. Although this error message suggests that the System registry hive is missing or corrupt, this message typically results from the System registry hive being too large for the OS to load. For Intel-based systems, the initial stage of the boot process is limited to 16MB of available memory. During this phase of the boot process, the system must load the following items:

  • Loader
  • Kernel
  • The hardware abstraction layer (HAL)
  • Boot drivers
  • System registry hive

If the System registry hive exceeds 13MB, an error can occur, resulting in the error message above. The System registry hive is meant to store only information that the OS needs to start the machine.

To resolve this error, you must replace the existing System registry hive with a smaller backup version:

  1. Boot your system to the recovery console using the Windows 2000 installation CD-ROM, selecting R for Repair and C for the Console.
  2. Select the installation to repair and enter its associated recovery/administrator password.
  3. Navigate to the System32\Config folder by typing the command
  4.   cd system32\config
  5. Rename the current system files by typing the commands
  6.   ren system system.old 
      ren system.alt systemalt.old
  7. Run the Emergency Repair Disk Wizard from Win2K Backup and Recovery tools, and copy the backup System registry hive from the %systemroot%\repair folder or the %systemroot%\repair\regback folder to the current folder by typing the command
  8.   copy %systemroot%\repair\system %systemroot%\system32\config
  9. Exit the recovery console by typing the command
  10.   exit

    After you replace the System registry hive, any extra services or drivers that you installed since you created the backup hive might not work correctly, so you might need to reinstall them.

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