Frankensteining a Windows XP Install: old into new?
November 23, 2011 7:59 AM   Subscribe

Can I put my old XP state into a new XP install?

Recently I was hit by some kind of malware that got blocked by SpyBot halfway through installing, and locked up my machine, forcing a reboot. After which, the computer would no longer boot. After rebuilding the boot.ini and some system restore stuff, I ended up with the NTLDR is missing error. After which, I tried just about everything on this search page, I tried using the XP disc to repair the install, and more. Nothing.

I pulled the harddrive to make sure it wasn't a faulty drive, I plugged it into another machine, ran all sorts of scans on it to make sure the HDD itself wasn't damaged; it wasn't. I backed up all my data, plugged it back into the original machine, tried everything all over again, to no avail.

Finally I gave up and installed a new copy of XP in a separate directory just to get it to do SOMETHING. It installed and booted up fine, of course, it's a fresh install, so nothing (programs, drivers, etc) is there yet.

So at the moment, I have a machine with two XP installs (C:\WINDOWS and C:\WINDOWS1). All of my programs and data are intact, and everything is still present in the old install, but I know it isn't as simple as just copying the working parts of one into the other and having my old setup back. As an IT professional by trade, I admit I find my inability to reclaim my old desktop to be a slight bit embarrassing, as it feels like the solution should be, if not easy, at least simple.

So I turn to you, AskMe Hivemind, is my old XP install doomed, and I should start scouring for the install discs of every single program I used to use, or is there a way to rebuild my home?
posted by Uther Bentrazor to Computers & Internet (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Nope. You'll need to reinstall everything. About the best you'll be able to do is recover old documents, maybe some configuration settings for applications (where they're stored locally and not in the registry), and things like browser bookmarks and email. You can also refer to your old Program Files folder as a memory aid for reinstalling all your applications.

If it were me, and I hadn't invested too much time already, I'd take the time to back everything up and then reformat the disk from scratch. It's safer.

Once you've got Windows set up as you want it, done all the updates, installed all your favourite applications, and secured everything, that's a perfect time to create an image of the disk so you don't have to go through as much pain next time this happens.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:16 AM on November 23, 2011

Having said that, a lot of applications may still run from the Program Files folder. Although I'd only try as a last resort, and after thorough checking for viruses and other malware.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:18 AM on November 23, 2011

Actually, since you are IT by trade...I would say reclaiming your windows.old is feasible. The NTLDR issue may have been due to a broken mbr rootkit (mebroot/torpig for example). Did you get a chance to jot down what spybot detected?

Here's what I would recommend:
- Back up your old install to another drive just in case.
- Download and install Security Essentials, do full scans on the old system's folders, make note of dlls or sys files removed, replace with working copies from your new install.
- Boot off of a PE or Linux Live CD. Simply change the new Windows1 to Windows1.old and bring your old Windows in as Windows1. Do the same for Program Files.
- Reboot off the HD and take note of any abnormalities. If you had System Restore enabled you might still be able to restore to a point prior to the infection.
- If you change Windows1 to Windows for legacy apps, just be sure to modify your boot.ini and system registry hive to match (I believe %windir% and %systemroot% are assigned on the fly, but there's likely hard paths hidden in the registry). Best to perform these tasks from a PE disk (bartpe and ubcd are good alternatives you can build ahead of time).

p.s. I woud offer more links, but alas writing this on a cellphone which makes linking tricky. If you'd like more direction please feel free to write. The good news is you have your old registry hives and data, it'll just be a matter of patching up the previous system.
posted by samsara at 9:45 AM on November 23, 2011

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