Recipe 2.7. Troubleshooting Installation Problems


You're having problems with Windows XP's installation process and want to know where to look for trouble.


Here are some common problems and suggested workarounds:

Disk space errors

If you're getting messages like "Not enough disk space for installation," then perhaps it's time to look at your partitioning scheme and create another partition from any existing free space on the hard disk. If you don't have any free space left, you'll almost positively have to delete files on the original partition to make space for the installation. However, if you have a larger drive available, you can clone your smaller drive to the larger one and remove this limitation.

Windows simply won't boot

Make sure that all the installed hardware is detected, and make sure that all of the hardware in your system is listed on the Hardware Compatibility List, which can be found from the Microsoft web site at

STOP messages

Check the Microsoft Knowledge Base at by entering the code for the STOP error that's displayed on the blue error screen. Chances are, there are good workarounds for the error you're seeing listed there. STOP messages are usually caused by either unstable hardware or incorrect driver installations, so again, double-check to make sure your hardware is on the HCL.

Setup fails during text mode

Try to remove legacy boot devices, like old CD-ROM drives or floppy drives, on modern systems because these settings cannot be reliably detected and accounted for by the Setup program. Also, make sure that the Plug and Play operating system option is disabled in the BIOS.

Setup fails during GUI mode

The easiest fix is to simply restart; Setup will figure out where it stopped responding and continue its operations from there. Problems usually creep up at the beginning of GUI mode setup because of the device detection phase. If Setup is freezing midway through the process, it could be because of a failure on the part of the Optional Component Manager (OCM or OC Manager), which handles the installation of external components that have their own setup routines. Finally, if Setup is failing toward the end of the process, it's probably an error with the computer configuration phase, where registration of object linking and embedding (OLE) control dynamic-link libraries (DLLs) is occurring.

Disk I/O and file copy errors

It's possible that your hard disk is defective, or at least that it contains defective sectors. You also might need to replace RAM. Of course, the obvious problem might be defective media, too.

The Discussion section lists more advanced troubleshooting techniques.


While the vast majority of the time Windows XP will install without a hitch, there are some issues (a piece of malfunctioning hardware, a power failure during installation, or a faulty download of a dynamic update) that can cause the installation process to fail. Luckily, there are ways to recover from a bugged-out installation.

Starting over

Sometimes it can be easier to cut your losses and start an installation over from the beginning, particularly if an error early in the process is preventing you from proceeding. The installation process changes three things on your drive, all of which need to be reversed to restart the installation (unless, of course, you want to format the hard drive and therefore aren't concerned with data loss):

  • Setup also constructs the $win_nt$.~bt directory to store boot files, which instruct your computer to boot into Setup's "post-first" phases (that is, all phases after the initial reboot). This should be removed.

  • Setup modifies your boot.ini file with a line something like this:

    Multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\$win_nt$.~bt="Microsoft Windows XP Professional Setup"

    This line needs to be removed as well.

  • Setup creates the $win_nt$.~ls directory and copies all files to the system in this directory in order to have data to work with if it cannot access the setup CD. This should also be removed, if it exists. (Some installation scenarios don't require its creation.)

At this point, no traces of the previous setup attempt remain on the machine, and you are free to start the installation process over.

The recovery console

For more serious problems with installation, or if you have a once-functional installation that seems to have failed, Microsoft has provided a tool that might let you make changes to rescue that system from the jaws of certain death. Around since Windows 2000, the Recovery Console is a text-based operating system extension that allows you direct access to the disk on which Windows XP is installed and similar access to key configuration files and data. It also provides a convenient way around DOS's inability to read NTFS-formatted drives, which is an issue any administrator with troubleshooting experience has come up against.

To use the Recovery Console, you must first set it up. If you are using a working Windows XP system, it's prudent to go ahead and set the console up; that way, if it fails, using the console is as simple a procedure as selecting it from the startup menu at first boot. To do so, simply run winnt32 /cmdcons from within Windows. Setup will copy files and modify your boot configuration file to list the console within its options. Now you're prepared for disaster, should it ever strike. It's a good idea to make a habit of installing the console when you first install Windows XP: it's not a difficult process and it can be automated using the /firstboot option in a pre-install script, which we'll cover later in this chapter.

There are reports that the winnt32 /cmdcons command does not appear to work if you have updated to Service Pack 2 via Windows Update. You may receive a message stating "Setup cannot continue because the version of Windows on your computer is newer than the version on the CD." To work around this, create a slipstreamed setup CD, as shown in Recipe 2.15.

If, on the other hand, you're working on the failed system, you can still set up the console; you'll just have to delve into Windows Setup in order to do so. Boot off the Windows XP CD-ROM or DVD, select the option to repair an existing installation, choose to do so using the Recovery Console, and Windows will copy the files and make the boot modifications for you and launch the console.

Once the console has launched, it's a two-step process to the command line:

  1. Select the installation to repair.

  2. Enter the administrator credentials for that installation.

Windows will approve your password and then dump you at a DOS-like prompt. You can move around the file system with the common DOS commands, like CD, DEL, FORMAT, and the like, but there are also several special commands detailed in Table 2-1 that control special functions peculiar to the console.

Table 2-1. Selected commands for the Recovery Console

Command name



Prevents a service, named in the argument syntax of this command, from starting up upon a normal boot.


Executes a disk partitioning utility much like that used in the initial text-based phase of Setup.


Explicitly instructs a service named in the argument syntax of this command to start upon a normal boot.


Like the old fdisk /mbr command from DOS days, this will restore boot sector information and make the drive contained in the argument syntax the default drive for booting.


This command is like FIXBOOT, but it will only touch the master boot record of the drive; it won't alter default boot drives or create BOOT.INI files.


Lists all commands available in the Recovery Console.


For use with the DISABLE and ENABLE commands, this lists all available services that can be started and stopped.


Logs you out of an existing console and lets you select another installation on which to perform recovery functions.


Goes to the default Windows directory without grappling with unwieldy "CD" (change directory) commands.

The Recovery Console makes it easy to correct simple errors that used to require reinstallation. It's a good idea, held over from Windows 2000, but yet still unknown to many.

See Also

Recipe 2.10 for troubleshooting multiboot problems, and MS KB 243996, "How to Enable Verbose Logging in Windows 2000 GUI-Mode Setup"

Windows XP Cookbook
Windows XP Cookbook (Cookbooks)
ISBN: 0596007256
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2006
Pages: 408

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