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Windows 7: Help: all system files have been moved to windows.old dir !!

14 Jun 2010   #1

Windows 7 Ultimate
Help: all system files have been moved to windows.old dir !!

Hello guys, new here with a great hope to get help for a brand new problem I’ve never been facing before which is driving me crazy for many hours ‘till this very moment am writing down these words.

I’m running a single Windows 7 Ultimate x86 OS on my laptop and it used to work very well ‘till earlier today once I get back home trying to use my computer as usual to find out that it always runs the startup repair after showing the words “windows is loading files” instead of starting windows normally. Once the diagnostic & repair process is done it tells me that Startup Repair cannot repair this computer automatically. When I view the details I get the following under Root cause found:

Boot configuration is corrupted.
Repair action: Partition table repair.
Result: Failed. Error code = 0x490

After many times doing the previous repairs with no result I went to Command Prompt in order to check my system drive to find out that both “Windows” & “Program Files” directories are not existed there anymore. Instead, there’s a “Windows.old” directory that contains those 2 system directories as well as “Users” & “PerfLogs” directories plus the “autoexec.bat” & “config.sys” files. Sure there’s noway to use the system restore tool or anything else even using my Windows boot DVD. Still can’t use the cmd commands single handedly to fix this.

As I said earlier I have never faced such problem before plus I have no idea how to regain my windows since I can never format my system drive as I need to backup all the files, settings, bookmarks & favorites located in my user profile first. can anyone plz explain what happened exactly and how to solve this problem ?!

Thanks a lot in advance and nice to be here with you all. Wish to get a reply soon.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Jun 2010   #2

Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit

Hi MedoMancer,

If there a Windows.old directory then you must have tried to install windows on top of the previous OS. Windows then moves the old OS to the windows.old folder. By the way, there is a prompt that tells you exactly this before you do it.

At this stage a restore/repair is out of the question. You will need to either:
- Complete the new windows install on the drive
- Install windows on another drive

My concerns at this stage would be data recovery. I would be trying to get any critical data off that hard drive and onto another one so that I can reformat the drive and reinstall windows. Given the partition error I defiantly would take the data recovery option first in case the hard disk is failing. When all the data is safe on another disk you can format the faulty disk and install windows if the format is successful.

If you need help/advice in copying your important data over to another disk then please let me know, there are a few options and I can guide you through them.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Jun 2010   #3

Windows 7 Ultimate

Hi Timo,

thanks for your quick reply. just for the record, i've just got the truth that one of my family members has tried to upgrade this copy of windows earlier so guess that was the reason for such tragedy . you saved his neck with your reply btw !

back to your words, i was thinking to go on installing windows either on the same drive or on the other one since i have just 2 drives C & D but guess it wont solve the problem of recovering my user profile data since it's gonna be a new copy with no access to data i need as my doc folder, desktop & other settings for example Firefox & Google chrome bookmarks. furthermore i cant upgrade the current one anymore unless i start the setup process before i login to the system itself.

while checking the other threads over the entire forum few mins ago i have just seen this thread

Windows.old folder - Restore into a new installation

wonder if it has anything to do with my problem man. in general is there anyway to restore my system files located within windows.old directory via cmd by modifying the names or copying the files included somehow to let it run again even for once ?!

if not then all i need to ask is how to copy the data i listed above on the other disk drive. cuz it'd be better for me than installing another windows just to backup the files before i format all of them again for a fresh clean copy.

thanks for your help man.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

14 Jun 2010   #4
Microsoft MVP


What did your family member try to upgrade Win7 Ultimate to?

You would have to be able to start Win7 to roll back using windows.old method.

If no installation is found to repair when booting into Repair console on DVD, then you need to try to recover data using the free Paragon Rescue disk, which will let you browse to and copy data off to DVD or USB external.

You can first try Paragon's recovery function to see if it can recover any intact partition which will give you more options.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Jun 2010   #5

Windows 7 Ultimate

he aint tryin to upgrade anything man.. just inserted the source dvd and made it by mistake.. thx for not goin ahead anymore..

however let me tell u that my win7 installation shows up while using the repair console "repair my computer" when i boot using my windows 7 dvd..

am already downloading the Paragon's recovery you listed within ur post but am wonderin if it can recover the personal files out of the Users directory such as the desktop files..

just for the record in case i installed a new copy of windows 7 beside the old one "new installation without formatting" then is it gonna be possible for me to access these files under Users "my docs, favorites, etc" without telling me that i dont have permission to do ?!

am lost among these options.. ! need to make the 1st step to go on.. thx for ur reply greg..
My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Jun 2010   #6
Microsoft MVP


If you have an installation listed to repair, then it should be reparable.

It makes it much harder to repair if Win7 is somehow not marked Active any longer. So boot into DVD, click thru to Recovery Tools list to access Command Line and type the following:

SELECT DISK # (replace # with Win7 HD #)
SELECT PARTITION (replace # with Win7 partition #, determined by size)

Now return to Recovery Tools list to run Startup Repair up to 3 separate times with reboots to see if it will start up.

If it won't start then you can use Paragon Rescue CD to possibly recover the partition if it is intact to roll back overwritten installation using windows.old, or retrieve files that are not damaged. Follow the Help instructions with PR, or SIW2 will walk you through it as he is expert in its use.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 Jun 2010   #7

Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit

If your old OS drive is not encrypted then I think the easiest solution is to:
1. Drop your family member in hot coals (ok just kidding on this one )
2. Install windows 7 on another drive
3. Attach your old os drive as a secondary drive
4. Take ownership of all files and folders on the old OS drive
5. Manually copy all important data to the new installation
6. Reformat old OS drive and use it as your new spare data drive

Before you go ahead, lets make a list of all the stuff that you need to copy so that we can check it over and ensure that nothing is missed.
- Documents from all users my documents folders
- Emails
- Contacts
- Game Saves and high scores

RE Greg's solutions
- Using a boot disk such as paragon will also work for recovery
- Greg said "It makes it much harder to repair if Win7 is somehow not marked Active any longer" and these are wise words. It is possible to remark your old installation as active and move all the files over' but you don't know exactly what your family member has done. Therefore you're really risking all sorts of corruption, such as missing data, programs not working, databases not up to date (e.g. icon cache, WMI, WMP etc) that may require hours of work later to fix and that's if it can be fixed. I believe that the solution of least resistance (i.e. neatest, safest, and quickest) is a fresh install and data import.

Of course please let us know first if your drive was encrypted as you'll need the encryption key to recover data and the process is a little more involved.

Which ever way you go, we'll be here to help. :)
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Jun 2010   #8
Microsoft MVP


The point of ensuring Win7 is marked Active is a last resort to start it up with Startup Repair since it is showing as an intact installation in Repair console.

If D is a separate available HD, then try Tim's suggestion of installing Win7 there. Unplug C if possible. Then when you plug it back in after install you should have access to your files after overcoming any permission problems.

Or if Paragon Rescue will copy the files off to D, then you can wipe C and clean reinstall Win7 there after making sure you have all of your files.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Jun 2010   #9

Windows 7 Ultimate

guys i really thank you all for your replies.. am so glad being right here among you all.. now back to work !

just to show the exact case before starting doin anything, when i reboot from Windows 7 dvd --> windows is loading files---> repair your computer---> System Recovery Options: Windows 7 is located there as the operating system over Drive C: as its the one all the windows.old files are assigned to - i guess -

Timo the steps you listed above can solve this indeed just in case i have already free space on the D drive to install a clean copy of Windows 7 which i really dont ! : as i have only few GBs to make a backup of my old files if its possible to do. i'm just thinking about installing a new copy of Windows over the same drive the windows.old directory is located on then backup the data manually to my D but am just worried if the Users directory would be accessible for me or not.. you know i've never tried doin this before as i used to backup my data before changing or reinstalling a new OS. this way i guess the new copy of OS would act just as a backup tool to let me copy this or move that to a new place even over a USB drive before i format the whole drive and install another copy of OS to use for a period of time. what do u think of it ?

as for what you suggested Greg, i've made a Paragon's recovery kit DVD few mins ago but still didnt use it since am still at work right now.. hope it can help copyin the data i need over the other drive, DVD or USB drive.

just for the record, one of the data i need is the bokmarks of both Mozilla FireFox and Google Crhome. used to make a bakup of them via the application itself bey exporting them as a html file, so how can i get them back manually without being able to run the apps using the old OS ?! still aint expert as you are guys !

many thanks for you guys.. Tomi need to tell you that my nephew "the one responsible for all this issue" knows your name exactly as i spent the whole night tellin him "Tomi has just saved your soul.."

waiting your reply guys..
My System SpecsSystem Spec
16 Jun 2010   #10

Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit

If you install a new copy over the top of the drive, you risk losing important data (even though it's most likely that it will just continue with the new install that your nephew started).

I would use that disk that Greg recommended and copy all important data over to your spare drive, then reformat the old OS drive.

The bookmarks are here %userprofile%\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default. Copy the following files from the directory and dump them into your new installation
- bookmarks
- bookmarks.bak
- history (every file that starts with the word history eg. history Index 2010-06)

For future reference use the synchronization option to sync the chrome bookmarks with an online google account (free to join). Then it looks after itself.

Take a look here, I don't have it installed at the moment to verify for you.

Also don't forget
Google Earth Locations
Skype / messenger history
Game saves
Your documents folder
Download locations (e.g. google chrome, orbit, torrents etc)
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Help: all system files have been moved to windows.old dir !!

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