I am sure someone else has figured this out already, but I thought I would post my solution for fixing this problem.
It started out with a co-worker telling me his Windows Vista laptop would not startup after a recent Windows Update. I asked about Safe Mode, and Restoring the Last Known Good Configuration. He said he had tried those options but kept getting a black screen with an error. I finally said let me see the computer and started to investigate what the problem might be. I quickly realized the registry had become corrupted.
The message on the screen was this:
Windows Boot Manager
Windows failed to start. A recent hardware or software change might be the cause. To fix the Problem:
1. Insert your Windows installation disc and restart your computer.
2. Choose your language settings, and click “Next.”
3. Click “Repair your computer.”
If you do not have this disc, contact your system administrator or computer manufacturer for assistance.
Info: Windows failed to load because the system registry file is missing, or corrupt.
To fix this, I did the following:
- Boot the machine from an Ubuntu Linux disc.
If you don’t have an Ubuntu disc, you can download the ISO and create one, or use an alternate boot method like WinPE or repair disc, or anything that will let you get a command prompt to the \Windows directory.
- When booting using Ubuntu, select the Try It Out option. This will install a memory resident copy of Ubuntu, but it doesn’t affect your Windows install.
- Once the installation completes, you will see the Linux desktop. You want to click the folder icon near the top of the icon bar on the left side of the desktop.
- In the window that opens, locate the main partition of your Windows installation in the file tree (look near the top), and open it.
- Navigate to \Windows\system32\config
- Locate and rename the SYSTEM file to SYSTEM.BAK
- Locate the RegBack folder in the same directory and open it.
- Copy the SYSTEM file from the RegBack folder (right click or type CTRL-C)
- Go back to the \Windows\system32\config folder, and paste the SYSTEM file you just copied.
- Reboot the machine, follow the instructions for removing the Ubuntu disc, and Windows should boot normally. To reboot Ubuntu, click the ‘gear’ icon in the upper right of the desktop window and click Shutdown. Then click the Restart button in the dialog box that opens.