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System File Checker needs an original installation media of some sort to do its job. Fortunately, there are alternatives to having the original CD.

I've lost my Windows XP Pro disc and I tried SFC/Scannow. I followed your directions to a "T". The first time I used it the program started ok and then a dialog box came up and started to run the program and then just stopped and didn't complete the run. I thought it might be a fluke and tried 3 times to no avail. It just kept calling for my original XP CD. Please advice. My OS is Microsoft XP Pro, SP3 and I run a Shuttle Cube computer. I have five of them that were built with the same bulk registry keys. By the way, here's what came up when I completed the process. C:Windows/servicepackfiles. Thanks for your time in advance!

In this excerpt from Answercast #25, I look at how System File Checker works and how to get the installation media it needs if you've lost the original.

System File Checker

SFC is the System File Checker. Its job is to check the files on your system to see if they've been damaged or altered in some way.

  • What it needs to do, when it finds that a file has been damaged or altered, is replace it with the original file.

That's where the installation CD comes in. You need an installation CD of some sort for System File Checker to be able to recover the original files that it's attempting to replace. If you don't have one, then System File Checker cannot do its job. At best, it's only going to report those files or those areas in your system that have (for whatever reason) been damaged or compromised: but it can't fix anything.

SFC needs replacement files

The System File Checker needs some form of original, unaltered media in order to recover the files.

My recommendation would be to go and find an original XP CD of some sort. The good news is that there's a little bit of flexibility here. You'll need it to be the same XP level as you happen to have installed on your machine: SP3 in your case. You might even need to create a slipstream CD. But, the point is that it doesn't necessarily have to be the one that you had. It could be one that you come up with later:

  • Borrow one from a friend...
  • Purchase one off of an auction site...

As long as you can come up with one, then you should be able to get SFC to repair the files that it thinks need to be repaired.

Unfortunately, I just don't know of a way to do that reliably without having some form of an original installation media.

Article C5451 - June 11, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Paul Schmidt
June 12, 2012 9:50 AM

With all those MS updates coming in every month, aren't they changing system files to plug security holes?
If so, doesn't SFC see that as different from the original and replace them thus nullifying the updates' purpose?

Naturally Windows Update also updates the information that SFC would use. SFC would be useless otherwise.
June 13, 2012 5:44 AM

Would it still be possible to extract the i386 file (if available) and point SFC to it?

June 13, 2012 7:18 AM

D'oh. Should've read your third link "I don't have installation media..." Sorry. :-(

Mark J
June 13, 2012 9:02 AM

This article gives more info on that
Can I burn the I386 folder to a CD and use that as an install CD?

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