Software // Operating Systems
Commentary
6/13/2006
07:44 PM
Fred Langa
Fred Langa
Commentary
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%
Repost This

Langa Letter: XP's No-Reformat, Nondestructive Total-Rebuild Option

Fred Langa shows you how to completely rebuild, repair, or refresh an existing XP installation without losing data, and without having to reinstall user software, reformat, or otherwise destructively alter the setup.

It's one of those software design decisions that makes you scratch your head and wonder, "What were they thinking?"

The "it" in this case is XP's most powerful rebuild/repair option, and yet Microsoft chose to hide it behind seeming dead ends, red herrings, and a recycled interface that makes it hard to find and (at first) somewhat confusing to use.

But it's worth exploring because this option lets you completely and nondestructively rebuild, repair, or refresh an existing XP installation while leaving already-installed software alone (no reinstallation needed!). It also leaves user accounts, names, and passwords untouched and takes only a fraction of the time a full, from-scratch reinstall does. And unlike a traditional full reinstall, this option doesn't leave you with two copies of XP on your hard drive. Instead, you end up with just the original installation, but repaired, refreshed, and ready to go.

We've saved this technique for last in our discussion of the various XP repair/rebuild options because the fixes we've previously discussed are like first aid--the things you try first. For instance, see this discussion on removing limitations on XP's Recovery Console, turning it into a more complete repair tool; or this discussion on the Recovery Console's little-known "Rebuild" command that can cure many boot-related problems. (There's also lots more on the Recovery Console here.

But when the Recovery Console techniques don't work, and you're facing the prospects of a total reformat/reinstall, stop! Try the no-reformat reinstall technique we're about to illustrate, and you just may get your XP setup running again in a fraction of the time and with a fraction of the hassle of a grand mal wipe-and-restore.

The First Fork In The Road
The no-reformat reinstall operation starts with a normal boot from an XP setup CD. Ideally, to save time, use a setup CD that's been "slipstreamed" to include the SP1 and SP2 patches and upgrades. (Need info on slipstreaming? See "How To Save An Hour (Or More) On XP Installs" and also this third-party site.

Start your PC with the setup CD in a drive, and hit a key when you see the following screen:


Boot from your XP setup CD to gain access to the no-reformat reinstall option.
Screen One
Boot from your XP setup CD to gain access to the no-reformat reinstall option.

(click image for larger view)

If instead of booting to the CD your PC boots from the hard drive, you may need to modify your PC's "boot order." It's easy and only takes a minute to make the change so that the PC will check for a bootable CD before trying to boot from the hard drive. See this for more information.

Once your PC starts to boot from the CD, you'll see something like what's shown in Screen 2:


Screen Two
Let the CD boot proceed normally and automatically through "Setup is inspecting your computer's hardware..." to the "Windows Setup" screen.

(click image for larger view)

Let the CD boot proceed normally and automatically through ''Setup is inspecting your computer's hardware...'' to the ''Windows Setup'' screen.

Previous
1 of 5
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
daddyz
50%
50%
daddyz,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/3/2011 | 4:11:40 PM
re: Langa Letter: XP's No-Reformat, Nondestructive Total-Rebuild Option
I'm doing the "xp no-formatt,nondestructive total - rebuild optionI "got as far as screen four .....no response from the keyboard ....what should I do? thanks
webbrewers
50%
50%
webbrewers,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/11/2011 | 10:22:45 PM
re: Langa Letter: XP's No-Reformat, Nondestructive Total-Rebuild Option
This article has saved my bacon more than once but now after screen 4 I'm stuck on "examining the hard drive.....atapi...."etc at the bottom. This machine won't even boot from a ubcd4win cd so I'm assuming the hard drive is fried.
Any ideas?
pdidit
50%
50%
pdidit,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/21/2011 | 5:08:29 PM
re: Langa Letter: XP's No-Reformat, Nondestructive Total-Rebuild Option
I'm trying to do this on a computer that I have been using for a long time but with a 9 month old 320 g drive. a virus is preventing me from using any programs or internet from c:even though it boots ok and the desktop looks fine. It just wont do anything. My screen 7 does not mention the repair option. It doesn not recognize a damaged xp.but it is telling me I have a either a full partition or damaged or not formated right and is telling me I have to format the partitian and that I have 131072mg left (which doesn't seem right) It only leads to distructive re install NO REPAIR OPTION. Do I just have the wrong set up disc? what now? .
pdidit
50%
50%
pdidit,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/21/2011 | 5:08:44 PM
re: Langa Letter: XP's No-Reformat, Nondestructive Total-Rebuild Option
I'm trying to do this on a computer that I have been using for a long time but with a 9 month old 320 g drive. a virus is preventing me from using any programs or internet from c:even though it boots ok and the desktop looks fine. It just wont do anything. My screen 7 does not mention the repair option. It doesn not recognize a damaged xp.but it is telling me I have a either a full partition or damaged or not formated right and is telling me I have to format the partitian and that I have 131072mg left (which doesn't seem right) It only leads to distructive re install NO REPAIR OPTION. Do I just have the wrong set up disc? what now? .
trezuresnheven
50%
50%
trezuresnheven,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/13/2012 | 5:24:19 PM
re: Langa Letter: XP's No-Reformat, Nondestructive Total-Rebuild Option
I have reached screen 16 and was wondering how long does it take for it to get to the next screen..not sure if it is hung up or configuring..
Beghard
50%
50%
Beghard,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/24/2013 | 1:27:05 AM
re: Langa Letter: XP's No-Reformat, Nondestructive Total-Rebuild Option
I've used this procedure more than once since I read this article. It worked perfectly each time and instantly refreshed and speeded up my old XP system. I printed it out and have it on a shelf in my computer desk for easy access when needed. All it takes is the ability to follow very easily understood instructions. Probably the most useful thing I've ever read, ;)

Thanks, Fred!
JustinT755
50%
50%
JustinT755,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/7/2013 | 3:45:26 PM
re: Langa Letter: XP's No-Reformat, Nondestructive Total-Rebuild Option
I never got an option to Repair Windows Installation, I was able to delete the windows files and re-install them, but no Repair Option
byterbit
50%
50%
byterbit,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/30/2013 | 10:16:29 PM
SP3 ? Can this work with SP3 ?
 Can this work with SP3 ?
jaybee1450
50%
50%
jaybee1450,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/9/2014 | 3:03:39 PM
Upgrading from Windows XP
I am trying to install Windows 7 on an older Dell XPS 400 that came with Windows XP installed. Unfortunately when I cleaned up the computer I erased and lost the pre-installed XP. The XP came pre-installed and I do not have a diskette to reinstall it. The reason I need to do this is because my Windows 7 program looks for it in order ti install over it. Can anyone think of a way to (a) get a copy of XP on diskette or (b) to get around this problem another way. Thanks for any help.
dripley
50%
50%
dripley,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/27/2014 | 6:30:36 AM
Non-destructive rebuild....
Like several others, I too do not get the 'R' option when selecting the existing installation. Why is this?
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Elite 100 - 2014
Our InformationWeek Elite 100 issue -- our 26th ranking of technology innovators -- shines a spotlight on businesses that are succeeding because of their digital strategies. We take a close at look at the top five companies in this year's ranking and the eight winners of our Business Innovation awards, and offer 20 great ideas that you can use in your company. We also provide a ranked list of our Elite 100 innovators.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Audio Interviews
Archived Audio Interviews
GE is a leader in combining connected devices and advanced analytics in pursuit of practical goals like less downtime, lower operating costs, and higher throughput. At GIO Power & Water, CIO Jim Fowler is part of the team exploring how to apply these techniques to some of the world's essential infrastructure, from power plants to water treatment systems. Join us, and bring your questions, as we talk about what's ahead.