Learning something new: re-installing Windows XP with I386

Recently, I worked on a student’s computer, a Dell desktop of some kind, that had issues starting up. It could begin to load Windows XP (Professional I believe) but would hang prior to the login screen. After some malware cleaning and whatnot, I managed to get past that point, only to then hang at an empty desktop. After reviewing the system even more, I found plenty of remnants of previous malware infections (100s of files) and decided that a format/reinstall would be the best option to make sure everything was taken care of. The big issue, of course, was that the student couldn’t find the installation discs that came with their computer.

Previously, this hadn’t been much of a concern, as we would direct students to the bookstore to purchase a new copy of Windows XP Professional (if they hadn’t already purchased a copy) and then use that to reinstall the operating system. Now that Vista is out, there are either very few or no copies of XP to be found at the bookstore, and some computers come to us that installing Vista on is simply not an option.

I thought I was out of options, but then I recalled that the UBCD has a program that could be helpful, Windows XP Setup Launcher. What it does, is allow you to pick a path to install Windows XP from. You cannot pick the Windows directory itself, as these are the post-installation files, but the computer did have an I386 directory, which has the compressed files that are used in installing Windows. I copied that directory to an external hard drive and ran Windows XP Setup Launcher. Using another UBCD program, Keyfinder, I got the computer’s Windows product key, which I needed to complete the setup process.

There were some issues along the way of course.

At one point, I was getting an error message of some kind because mstask.ini could not be found in the I386 folder. Now, for creating the UBCD, I have the contents of a Windows XP installation CD stored on my computer, and it just so happened that mstask.ini was already there. The contents were simply:


However, in case this was a file that was or needed to be different per computer, I searched for the entire second line shown above. While there were a number of sites that came up, this was the first site listed, and the inline comment for that CLSID of “Makes the task folder work” was enough for me to assume that this was something standard that could be copied over. Sure, most of the information that initially comes up is for Windows prior to XP, but it my assumption was correct, as I was able to continue on to bigger and better errors.

The next error was a pain to deal with, as the installation would through the following message at me:

Windows cannot load internet configuration utility ICFGNT.DLL. The specified module could not be loaded.

This is where I, unfortunately, get forgetful. I wasn’t taking exact notes on this, and as the case was, there were multiple errors going on at the same time that I was trying to resolve. Always remember: fix one thing at a time. In regards to this, I’m sure I did the following, and as listed later, I tried some of these multiple times:

  • I will say that this site/forum post offered the most assistance. I applied the edits to txtsetup.sif that are listed, even though I was not using the exact software listed. It didn’t appear to harm the system and I do believe it helped. These were as follows:All added to the [FileFlags] section of txtsetup.sif
    BNTS.DLL = 16
    TSHOOT.DLL = 16
    SSTUB.DLL = 16
    SSDPSRV.DLL = 16
    SSDPAPI.DLL = 16
    UPNP.DLL = 16
  • I downloaded a copy of icfgnt.dll, as I could not really found a copy in the I386 folders I had access to.

Something there did the job, as I was able to get the computer up and running. I had also saved the drivers and dell directories to the external drive so that I would be able to install the hardware Windows couldn’t, and fortunately, everything was there as needed. You’d think that would be the end of it, but you would be wrong; so very, very wrong.

Sure, the computer was running, but one of the Windows Security Alert balloons that pops up after a fresh install caught my eye. If I’m correct, it may have been telling me that the computer did not have any antivirus software installed. I don’t know for sure, as the message was not in English; in fact, it was definitely a Middle Eastern language, but I’m not sure which. For the purpose of listing it, I’m going to say it was Arabic. I didn’t think this was going to be an issue, but then I started to use Windows. Here’s what I remember finding in Arabic:

  • All of the Windows Security Center
  • The Start menu item for setting default applications and settings
  • The Hardware and Remote tabs of System Properties

So, I try the re-installation process again, making sure to do an attended install and not an unintended one, which of course, did not solve the problem. This was starting to bother me, as I could find no real reason why it was happening, then it hit me: everything that was showing up in Arabic was something that had been changed with Service Pack 2. I grabbed one of the SP2 discs we have from a couple years ago and “installed” it on the computer. One reboot later, and all but one item (default applications and settings) was in English. I connected to the Internet and initiated an update of 90-some items, and following that reboot, the computer was, as far as I could tell, all in English again.

Was this computer a pain to deal with? Yes. Did I enjoy working on it? You better believe it. It was nice to have a computer come in that was fubar and find a unique way to solve the problem, which I can now tuck away as an option for further issues I may face. Also, since nothing jumped out at me when I was searching for this, I’m more than glad to add it to the collective knowledge of the web. Just be sure to leave a comment if you find this useful.


  1. Rocky Johnson said,

    April 9, 2008 @ 20:48

    I am having a similar problem with a pc at work, a win xp professional. I had to use a /i386 directory from another xp professional machine since the original 2nd partition of the problem pc that contained a pqimage of the system was corupted. So a fresh install is what I am atempting to do with all the flavor of errors as you have stated above. I do not have a “standard xp disk” those cost around 300 bucks for a “Winduhs xp pro” all I got is one of those adulterated dell versions LOL. The mstask.ini file is where I am right now and there is absolutely no info on the internet at all(at least after spending an hour looking) So I am thankfull to have found the files content from you and I hope that it will get me past at least this first hurdle.
    Thanks Sean

  2. Dan said,

    May 13, 2008 @ 16:25

    I tried to reinstall XP with only a key code (no disc).

    same problems. mstask.ini missing, then on reinstall I replaced the C: partition – thshoot.dll (along with a couple of others) went missing and now I get a “clean” XP startup but get ICFGNT.DLL error and some weird language when trying to access the internet explorer.

    Wish there was a way for people not well-versed in this sort of thing to fix the problem, but every thing I find online seems pretty involved.

  3. Doran said,

    October 2, 2008 @ 03:15

    I’ve jst finished an MCE install using the i386 directory and have waded through TONS of issues like the ones u guys have been listing. Most of the “missing” files were easily found by directing the installer to look at the your_root\i386 directory. The mstask.ini problem i solved by using a copy from another install disk (xp home incidentally) and placing in the i386 directory. dido the icfgnt.dll error file (except i downloaded a copy of that file). I also had a separate utility partition containing the i386 folder from which I initiated the install. That way, when I was missing a file I could simply wade through it instead of looking at the temp directory and its strange naming schemes. There also seemed to be an issue with the installer’s cab extractor. Several files that were “not found” (even after correctly redirecting) were sitting pretty as you please on utility partition when I checked later. The installer simply was not unpacking the cab file correctly. During the install i had to extract these cabs (on another comp) and burn them to a disk. Then i directed the installer to look on the cd for the missing files. problem solved. Incidentally, they were all MCE specific cabs (i386\cmpnts\mediactr and i386\cmpnts\netfx ). A better way would be to extract them before starting the install. hope this helps.

  4. Hang said,

    January 1, 2009 @ 23:22

    I’m stuck at ICFGNT.DLL problem. Windows has installed fine but I have no access to the internet, despite everything being done correctly. I want to replace this file, which will hopefully help my little internet problem. However, everyone just says they downloaded a copy of it. What I want to know is, what do I do with it? And is there possibly another problem prohibiting me from accessing the internet on my computer? I’ve tried several different browsers and all the options I can think of. Someone help me out please.

  5. Harish said,

    May 1, 2009 @ 17:06

    Thanks a lot for your help. It really helped and i was able to get it successfully working on my laptop.

    However, i had to ignore one error which said CBS32.exe not found..

  6. misbah said,

    July 27, 2009 @ 23:37

    Yesterday i was going through the same scenario and i was searching for the Arabic problem when i found your article
    Good One

  7. Nina said,

    September 2, 2009 @ 15:58

    Wow, you’re a legend. I fixed the Arabic problem following your instructions and I’m not even that fantastic with computers. Thank you soooooo much!!!

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