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Windows 7: Windows 7 will not boot - possible corruption!

04 Apr 2011   #1

Windows 7 Professional x64
Windows 7 will not boot - possible corruption!

This is going to be quite a post, but here goes nothing:

I am running a purchased, non-OEM Windows 7 Pro 64-bit with SP1 installed, and until yesterday it was working fairly well. I've only had this OS installed for about 10 months.
My computer specs (off the top of my head, but I can certainly get the full details if needed):
Windows 7 Pro x64
500GB 7200RPM Seagate HDD
EVGA LE motherboard
Intel i7 920 overclocked CPU
The system was custom-built by a small computer outfit, and it is less than a year old.

It was business as usual, and I was dragging a folder to the Recycle Bin when my desktop icons suddenly vanished. I decided to try a few basic troubleshooting tips to correct this: I disabled and re-enabled the "Show Desktop Icons" option, I changed my theme a couple of times, I set my desktop icons to default, and I rebooted the computer. However, nothing seemed to work. I knew the icons were still there, because I saw them in my Desktop folder, and my taskbar and Start menu were fine. The only way I could make the icons reappear was to use the trusty Winkey+ P, and switch the display option from "Computer Only" to "Parallel" or "Duplicate."

Running out of ideas, I quickly jumped online and searched for a solution. I found the tutorial on this websitewhich suggested rebuilding the icon cache. I entered in the following commands verbatim in an elevated command prompt:

taskkill /IM explorer.exe /F
CD /d %userprofile%\AppData\Local
DEL IconCache.db /a
shutdown /r

I know I should have changed the “userprofile” to my username, but I didn't realize that at the time. Anyway, the computer rebooted, but unfortunately, the desktop icon issue persisted. I decided to ignore it for the time being, and began syncing music to my iPod. A while later, there was a power outage, and my comp therefore shutdown unexpectedly. When I rebooted, Windows was all right. After checking to make sure nothing was out of place (besides the missing desktop icons) I shut down and left for several hours. Upon returning, I rebooted the computer and discovered to my horror that Windows would not boot! The machine would load up the GUI boot screen, but then, instead of displaying the login screen, I would see a black screen with just my cursor visible, and then the computer would reboot. It continued to do this in an unending cycle of failing to boot.

I used every single boot repair I knew, starting with the F8 options: I tried Safe Mode and Last Known Good Configuration, both with the same results as if I'd booted normally. I ran the kernel debugger with no result, and I ran a memory test, but that came back clean. Naturally, Windows suggested that I attempt to repair it at the boot menu, so I decided to run Startup Repair. It found and attempted to repair an error, but was unable to do so. Thinking that the pre-installed files could be bad, I ran Startup Repair again from my genuine Windows 7 install disc, but the result was the same. The following error report was displayed when I requested further details:

Problem event name: StartupRepairOffline

Problem locations (I omitted some because they were either blank or unknown):
1.) 6.1.7600.16385
4.) 21202109
5.) External Media (This led me to believe there was some sort of conflict with the iPod, but I made sure nothing was plugged in when I rebooted other than my monitor, keyboard, and mouse.)
6.) 2
7.) No Root Cause

That last bit is somewhat contradictory, because further along in the error report, one root cause was found, and was listed as “Unspecified changes to system configuration might have caused the problem.” Perhaps the error was caused my attempt at rebuilding the icon cache? That is my best guess, because my computer passed every other check the Startup Repair ran.

Since Windows couldn't repair the system, my next step was to use System Restore. However, there were no restore points available! For some reason, Windows wouldn't let me access them, although I knew I had them, since Windows had created a restore point when I installed SP1. Since restore points were now no longer an option, my next plan was to restore from a system image I had made a few weeks earlier. I decided to refrain from that option, because I am hoping I may find a solution here that will fix my boot issue, rather than setting me back a few weeks. If all else fails, I can use my system image.
Since the repair options from the Windows install disc hadn't worked or uncovered anything, and neither had the F8 advanced boot options, I moved to plan B.

I have a separate hard drive with Windows XP and Linux Mint installed on it, so I decided to check my Windows 7 drive from there. I booted into XP and ran several virus, rootkit, and malware scans, including an exhaustive scan with McAfee's free anti-virus tool. Every scan came back negative, so apparently there wasn't any malware infection that might have compromised my main drive. I checked the drive for errors with XP's built-in utility, and that also came back clean. So the disc was healthy, which confirmed the Startup Repair's report that there were no bad sectors.

I was fresh out of ideas, so I decided to sleep on it and shut the computer down. When I rebooted this morning, I was unable to access my XP drive! When I selected XP from the boot loader menu, instead of booting XP up as usual, the screen moved to the Windows 7 boot GUI and then entered its boot failure cycle. So now, for some reason, the Windows 7 boot error has moved to my second hard drive and taken out my XP boot loader. I can still boot with Linux, so I can still access my XP and Win 7 partitions, in case I need to change anything in the boot folder or edit any configuration files.

Thus concludes my post; I'm sorry if it appears verbose, but I really wanted to cover the entire problem in great detail, just so that a solution may be found that much quicker. So is there a method I haven't thought of yet that may yet save me from restoring or reinstalling Windows? I'm not sure what incited the issue in the first place, but I believe it was either my botched attempt at rebuilding the icon cache, the boot files becoming corrupted as a result of being unexpectedly shut down during the power outage, or even a delayed side-effect from installing Service Pack 1. I haven't installed or downloaded anything recently (aside from updating Firefox) so I really don't know the cause for this boot disorder. And why would Windows 7's inability to boot suddenly afflict XP, which is on a separate hard drive? As I said, I'm completely out of ideas, and I believe I will have no other choice than to restore my computer with my system image.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
04 Apr 2011   #2

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Vista x64 / 7 X64

Replace the hives from the backup - you would probabaly be best replacing all 5 - just copy them from

windows\system32\config\regback to windows\system32\config.

You could rename the originals before you do - or just overwrite them - up to you.

You can do it from command prompt, but it's easier to d/l the free

Boot it up, Select Normal Mode>File Transfer Wizard, then just browse to the above locations and copy the hives across.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
04 Apr 2011   #3

Windows 7 Professional x64

Thank you for your prompt and helpful reply, SIW2! I'll download and burn the Paragon Rescue software and burn it to disc, and then give it a shot. I've used the Paragon Backup program, so I know that their software works well. Just out of curiosity, is there any way to create a bootable USB thumb drive with the rescue software, or is a blank CD the only option?
My System SpecsSystem Spec

04 Apr 2011   #4

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Vista x64 / 7 X64

Yes, from memory, pretty sure you can make a bootable usb.

The hives are the files with no extensions , Components,Default,Sam,Security,Software,System - no need to copy the .log or regtrans files.

That's six - I said 5 before - there you go - can't count.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
04 Apr 2011   #5

Windows 7 Professional x64

I don't see how I can save the ISO to the USB to make the device bootable, but I'll keep checking.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Apr 2011   #6

Windows 7 Professional x64

All right SIW2 - I got the Paragon Rescue Kit up and running, but I do have a few questions about the hives. First, I couldn't access the Windows32 folder from my backup image, as I don't know how to open a backup image besides launching the restore process. I have the disc image saved on a DVD, and all I was able to see was the actual image on the disc.

Second, I was able to get to a friend's computer - he's running Windows 7 Enterprise - and get five of the hives from the Regback folder. There was no Component hive located there, so I copied that from the Config folder. This won't cause any problems will it? For one thing, it's a different version of 7, and for another, it's a different computer altogether. Additionally, getting the Component hive from the separate folder wouldn't affect this operation, or do all hives have to be from that Regback folder?

Finally, while I'm asking, what will replacing these hives do? It won't remove any of my programs or change my boot sequence will it? I've never worked with hives before, so this is all new territory for me.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Apr 2011   #7

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Vista x64 / 7 X64


I meant you to copy them from your installed version of windows - the one you can't boot.

There are backup hives stored on your hard drive - in your windows installation itself.

e.g. c:\windows\system32\config\regback.

However, it is possible to get them from a recent backup image instead. You will have trouble getting them from windows system image - but if you used a 3rd party app. -macrium, Paragon, Acronis, etc - it's easy.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
06 Apr 2011   #8

Windows 7 Professional x64

HOORAY! The repair worked!! Once I realized that you were referring to my actual hard drive hives and their files, I was able to make the swap! I can't thank you enough, SIW2; you just saved me several weeks of progress and many hours just to put my computer back into place after a restore! You truly are a Windows Wizard!

However, there is just one problem I have left. The desktop icons are still gone, and even their placeholders are missing. I know they are still there, because I see them in my Desktop folder. Is there anything I can do to recover them? Once I get my desktop back in order, I'm going to make a new disc image before anything else happens!

As a side note, I noticed that you mentioned 6 hives instead of 5, SIW2, with the sixth being the Components hive. However, I didn't see that in my \regback folder, but there was one in the \config folder. Should I replace that from my backup image as well, or should I leave it alone?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
06 Apr 2011   #9

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Vista x64 / 7 X64

I would leave Components hive as it is.

What exactly is your dektop icon issue?

Can you get the icons to show at all?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
06 Apr 2011   #10

Windows 7 Professional x64

Understood, I'll leave the Components alone. I spoke too soon - I got the icons to reappear! I was idly trying a few icon retrieval methods, when I selected Arrange Icons > By Name. Then they suddenly reappeared! I already had the Show Desktop Icons option selected, but it never occurred to me to try rearranging the icons to bring them back. Go figure!

All right, that should be everything SIW2. Thank you again so much for your help! I'll mark the thread as solved, but I just wanted to ask one last question: is there anything else that you would recommend that I do to make sure that this doesn't happen again? I need to maintain more recent disc images, I'll admit that, but besides backing up, is there anything else I can do to prevent that hive issue? I'd never heard of it before, and I'd like to hope it never happens again!
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Windows 7 will not boot - possible corruption!

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