No more than four days after the last tale of Windows woe I get called by the dad of one of my son's friends. "My son's computer died" he said, "Do you think you could look at it?". I suppose a certain amount of desperation was creeping into his tone of voice (small hints like the "How much do you charge?" phrase), so I went over that night to see. The problem was that his netbook would not boot properly into Windows, giving this message:
Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt
This is not a happy message to see. The files in the config directory are your registry, so this means that the system hive (part) of your registry - probably the most important part - is gone. Without it Windows has no idea what parts of Windows are where, so nothing starts!
There are programs that claim to help you to recover from this problem, but not only did I not have them but I was also constrained by time. So we got his external USB Optical drive, connected it, put in a Linux live image DVD, and tried to boot. Same message!
Drat!! F2 to get to the BIOS and change the boot device sequence (it was an Acer One, so under "Boot" in the BIOS menus). Try again. Same message. Huh??? Check the BIOS - should start from hard drive last, so why isn't it? Turn machine totally off, disconnect optical drive (that uses one USB socket) and try another (that uses a double-headed cable).
Success!! Select PartedMagic. Look at the hard drive ... there are two? Oh! 155 GB and 5 GB means that there's a normal one and a recovery one. Excellent!!
Spent the next hour taking all the irreplaceable personal files off the hard drive and onto a USB drive. Once that's done we used the disk checker in PartedMagic to review the SMART data from the hard drive. It all looked good, so replacement was ok to do.
Reboot yet again - without the optical drive - and hit F6. This got us the menu for replacing the content of the hard drive from the recovery partition. 30 minutes later we had a "brand new" PC!!
Yes, we could have done the system recovery without Linux, but not without losing all the data from the machine. Oh, and no, I didn't charge!