I decided to give Microsoft one more chance to have one of its (non)operating systems on my primary home computer. After reformatting my drive and beginning installing Windows XP from a freshly opened WinXP CD that I received direct from Dell, the following message appeared: “Manifest Parse error: Invalid at top level of document”. The installation failed and stopped because it could not correctly parse the CONTROLS.MAN file.
There are many theories as to what causes the error. Many folks prefer to keep their original disks in close-to-pristine condition and install from CD copies, yet rumors abound that as many as 60-70% of copies experience this error during installation. On the other hand, hundreds of people have gotten the error while installing from fresh-out-of-the-shrink-wrap, boxed versions of Windows XP. I’ve heard everything from “it’s a copy protection scheme” to “it locks you out after three installations”. None of the theories seem to be accurate.
I must be a glutton for punishment, because rather than scrapping the OS completely, I decided to push all the theories aside and figure out how to get around the problem. Old habits — like most computers running Microsoft operating systems — die hard.
/i386/asms/6000/msft/windows/common/controls/controls.man file on the CD is corrupt. Microsoft’s installation program doesn’t allow you to select an alternate source location for the file. It doesn’t even allow you full command prompt access. And the Recovery Program is useless, as it doesn’t even allow you to copy directories or copy using wildcards!
Copy your entire CD to your harddrive, use my version of the CONTROLS.MAN file (don’t forget to change the file extension), and burn another CD. In theory, you could copy the entire i386 directory to your harddrive, replace the damaged file, and then run
\i386\winnt.exe to install, but if you really want a reliable and stable system, it is not wise to install the XP operating system over an existing, older OS. Burning a CD is the best viable option for a fresh, clean install.
Whether the new OS works well enough to dissuade me from breaking down and purchasing an iMac remains to be seen.