What's in your toolbag?
In working with one of my clients this week all I can say is it helps to have Google as your friend and a bag (or CD in this case) of tricks.
A Windows XP computer booted up with the error:
Windows XP could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\SYSTEM
Generally this refers to a corrupt system registry according to this Microsoft KB which is pretty easy to search and find based on entering the entire above error into Google Groups (which has a new beta BTW).
Well working through this problem and trying to copy the system registry backup down from the repair directory, which is a great add in to XP, caused a problem as well. While in the Recovery Console when I went to the \windows\system32\config directory I would get the error that the directory could not be enumerated. UH oh, looks like a failed hard disk.
Well for any administrator or consultant I highly recommend Bart's PE bootable XP CD, this is a great little way to startup XP and get all the utilities you need but boot from a CD rather than the HDD in question. Booted up this way and ran the CHKDSK utility that is included. CHKDSK is a pretty forgotten utility now in the world of GUI interfaces but still works great. Come to find out after an hour of running this on the HDD that the system directory was the only one with errors and CHKDSK recreated the index to the directory properly for all files in question and now I could see the entire directory.
Shut down BartPE and rebooted and the client was back in business. Downtime was minimal and the client was needless to say VERY happy again.
So what's the lesson? Always have a bag of goodies to draw from. As a business owner or admin with a network sometimes trouble will come looking for you. Be prepared. Bart's boot CD is a great little item to keep in your sacred CD set. If needed I could have used the boot CD, mapped a drive to the server and done a backup or file copy of all files on the HDD. Great and easy way to keep as much information as possible. And as we know time and data is money in an SMB.