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Windows throwing error messages at start-up? We share some possible solutions
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If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to send you into a sweat, it’s Windows throwing up an error message on start-up. If you’re lucky, Windows will continue to load normally, and the error message is just a mere annoyance, although it could have repercussions elsewhere in your system. If you’re unlucky, Windows will refuse to go any further, suggesting you restart your PC or – worse – that you reinstall Windows.
In most cases, reinstalling Windows is the equivalent of cutting off a patient’s head to cure a cold. Thankfully, the solutions are usually quicker and much less painful, and we’ve dug deep to find the most common questions surrounding start-up problems in this special FAQ.
You can start preparing for the worst now. While your PC is still working, now is the perfect time to print some useful articles from the Microsoft Support Knowledge Base. The web address is found further down this page.
I receive the following error message on starting Windows: ‘Error Loading Kernel. You must reinstall Windows’. I’d rather not reinstall if I can possibly avoid it. What can I do?
Basically, the kernel32.dll file has gone missing or is damaged. What you need to do is restore the file from your Windows CD. First you need to rename the corrupt file (if it exists). Boot from your start-up disk and choose to load with CD-ROM support. When the command prompt appears, type the following, pressing [Return] after each line:
ren kernel32.dll kernel32.xxx
Now you need to extract a new copy of the kernel32.dll from your Windows CD. In Windows 98, type the following two lines, pressing [Return] after each, and change d to the letter of your CD-ROM drive:
extract /a win_28.cab kernel32.dll /l
c:\windows\system\ (all on one line.)
Remove your start-up disk, reboot and all should now be fine.
Windows halts just after the desktop first appears with an error message telling me that I need to reinstall Windows. I can’t get any further than this blank screen. What’s gone wrong?
This error message often appears after you’ve uninstalled a shell-replacement program like Talisman or Litestep. You need to boot from your Windows start-up disk and choose to Start Computer without CD-ROM support. When the A:> or C:> prompt appears, type edit c:\windows\system.ini and press [Return]. The Edit utility should run with the System.ini file loaded. Locate the line that begins shell= and make sure it reads shell=explorer.exe. Press [Alt] + [F] to open the File menu and use the cursors and [Return] to select Save. Then repeat the process, except this time choose Exit. Remove your start-up disk, restart Windows and it should now boot properly.
When I attempt to load Windows, even in Safe mode, I get the following message: ‘Error loading User.exe. You must reinstall Windows’.
This is due to a corrupt or missing dll. The file in question is Ddeml.dll, and you can replace it using the same procedure outlined under Corrupt Kernel, above. The only difference is how you use the extract tool:
Windows 98: extract win98_31.cab ddeml.dll c:\windows\system
Windows 98SE: extract win98_28.cab ddeml.dll c:\windows\system
When I boot into Windows an error message flashes up telling me that certain files are missing or corrupt. However, Windows continues to load normally. What’s going on?
There are two primary causes of this: a program that hasn’t uninstalled itself properly, or a problem with files that have vanished from a key location or become corrupt somehow. In Windows 98, click Start, Run, type sfc, and press [Return]. Select Extract One File From Installation Disc, type the name of the missing file (including its extension) in the box and click Start. Click OK to follow the instructions, extracting the file to your Windows\System folder or whatever folder is prompted.
If this doesn’t work, search your hard drive for the missing file – chances are it’s duplicated somewhere else. If you find it, copy it to the Windows\System folder. If you don’t, and the file is a VXD file, then the problem is driver-related. Search online for the file in question to see if it throws up any hints as to the driver’s origins. If you find it, remove the hardware in question from Device Manager and then let Windows re-detect it and reinstall it from your driver’s original location (probably the driver CD).
If the file is a DLL, then go online and browse to www.easy-files.com, where you can search for the file and download it. Download the file to your PC, then copy it into c:\windows\system. The problem should now be resolved.
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Article ID: 835569 - Last Review: July 8, 2008 - Revision: 5.4