Manifest Parse Error

The Problem

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.

The Solution

The /i386/asms/6000/msft/windows/common/controls/ 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.

183 Responses to “Manifest Parse Error”

  1. Marcel


    Problem: XP setup failed, with manifest error in line 4 related to the file.

    Solution: Disabling on chip cache of microcontroller in BIOS during Xp installation.

    Remark: it is an old system (AMD-166Mhz).

    Greetings Marcel.

    • Richard

      Who besides me thinks that the installation of an operating system should actually work flawlessly without having to mess with hardware or the BIOS?! *sigh* – RDL

  2. Eef

    THANK YOU ALL!!!!! To keep my story short, It definitely helped me. I faced so many problems.
    The BÙGGÊR in this story is the CONTROLS.MAN file, which you need to patch according to the (many) instructions above.


  3. GMTOM

    I came across this problem last week formatted my hard drive several times and couldn’t get a clean install without this manifest parse error. I took my hdd drive out and checked what files where on it, found the recycled folder with a fair bit in it, deleted each item individually then FDISK and put the drive back in original machine, used my cd/rw dive instead of my DVD rom formatted and hey presto a complete installation without errors. I don’t know too much on the technical side but it worked for me. Hope it’s of help to you.

  4. JacksoN

    Well, the story starts a few weeks back. I lent my good copied version of XP to a friend, but then he kinda lost it : So, I was stuck without an XP disc (which I really wanted to have). Now, we all know how M$’s products have a very unpredictable stability, so I really needed to have a copy of XP handy so if anything did happen, BINGO it would be fixed.

    So anyway, I downloaded an ISO of XP PRO, and I had heard about this error before (so i checked the ISO and the controls file was ok). Burnt it and guess what…the directory that was in wouldn’t even load. So I tried it again..and again – this time on 2x speed…both times failing (same thing happening).

    So I extracted the contents of the ISO (using Undisker) and then proceeded to burn the files using Nero 5 on 4x speed. I then did data verification..Nero said everything was fine. I was a bit sketchy with this result so I checked out with Notepad..BINGO everything there! I haven’t had to reinstall Windows as of yet, but I’m assuming the disc is in working order (tested it by installing some Windows components).

    I hope this story helps anyone out there having trouble :)

  5. tomcat

    I only have copied winxp corporate edition cd.
    would someone pls send me all those manifest files or contents of files?

    thank you in advance

  6. 12heineken

    Here’s my story. I have a legitimate copy of XP Home ed. in the form of a restore CD for my Emachines rig. It’s in Ghost format and computer-model-sensitive. I wanted to install XP in my older rig to test it, and came upon an info-site that instructed me to just copy the I386 folder outta my XP-equipped rig instead of worrying how to extract it from the disks and remove unwanted files. So I copied the I386 folder to a cheap Imation blank using the XP burning software and the CDWriter in my Emachines rig. I formatted my old 450’s HDD and popped in the I386 CD. It asked me if I wanted to enable SmartDisk or something like that. It sait it would greatly improve the performance of that stage of setup. I said Nah and just ignored it. It took 24+ hours to copy to the HD! several files wouldn’t copy, like the cyclad/cyclom inf’s – typical for a copy CD. Then I had the option to Change the File system to NTFS, so I opted for it, and XP copied to the HD for a 2nd time, but only took a few minutes this time. Fast-forward to the install-I get an error about XP not being able to complete setup because of a mismatch. There was no mention of “parsing” or anthing else, just something about the manifest catalog. I clicked the log button to discover that it was a problem in “line 4” of the CONTROLS.MAN file. Fast-forward to my Google-search leading me here-I’m reading about all of these conflicting accounts, most of which support or debunk the CONTROLS.MAN issue. I checked the file on my cd. It was fine. What do I do now? I keep readin. I read about copying the file to a floppy and waiting for setup to ask me to manually search for the file if I take out the CD and reboot, then I tell it to look in the floppy. Hmm-ok-lets try that. I yoink out the CD, reboot and wait for it to look for the file, then not find the file, then ask me to track it down. BANG! the sonofabitch finishes setup without a hitch! IT DIDN’T ASK ME FOR THE FILE. It was like the CD was getting in the way of the identical file already on the HDD. WTF? Anyway, that’s my XP-copy story, try yankin the cd and rebooting if you haven’t done so already. I have to report that it seems less stable than my fast fast rig with OE XP-maybe due to a slower machine and less ram…whoknows. It works 90% fine. I’m Happy

  7. carlitos

    I have a Gateway Solo 1200 laptop without a recovery disk, the hard drive have been formatted, i also have a copied XP cd and i also get a manifest parse error, I tried to downgrade to win2k pro, it works but my display is not right, my network card doesnt work, and i dont have sound, does anyone know how i can get my drivers, without going to gateway since they are charging me $190 for a recovery disk.

  8. Char

    You are a GOD !! Thank you very much for the advise on the Manifest Parse Error – the advise to copy/replace the files worked perfectly. I made a new copy of Windows XP Pro following the step-by-step instructions here: (really easy!)

    I have one note to make, however, for those of you out there getting ready to follow Richard’s directions…follow them to a “Q” and make sure the files get put where he tells you (don’t make the mistake I did and attempt to copy the Windows XP files to a different hard drive other than the c:temp …it won’t work!!)Keep up the great advise Richard!! Thanks again!

    P.S. – I used the Roxio Easy CD Creator program for MY copy needs & it worked like a charm (but you still need to follow the step-by-step directions…)

  9. Jim

    I am having the problem of ” The file “asms” on Windows XP Pro CD-ROM is need. Type the path where the file is located and the click O

    I have done everything that I was supposed to but I cannot get it to work. Someone said in an earlier post about a floppy disk with the tree. How do you do that and please be specific. I have been working on this forever.

    If some files are needed please eamil them to me

  10. Jim

    I got it to work. I just burned it to the CD at a slower speed and did what Rob said at the top. Thanks for your help.

  11. Rob

    WOW. That’s all I can say.

    Been burning my own cracked version of XPprofSP1a and it’s just not working! Weird thing is, check this:

    ~ Crappy Korean generic CDR :: burn, works fine
    ~ Quality Sony CD :: burn, parse error VCTRL.MAN

    From my years as a PC user I can only think that the chap that talked about Joliet standards is right – the directory structure is too deep and therefore it’s incredibly temperamental to burning errors. It’s got to be that. All very well saying that but none of the methods mentioned above seem to work. Very odd this, I’m amazed there’s no KB article on this since MS do say that making one backup copy of a CD is fine (correct me if I’m wrong).

    Hmm… this has got me pìssëd øff – 5 CDs burned so far with no luck. Run out for tonight, gotta go buy some tomorrow!

  12. XP USER

    I hope this post will help. I had to download the WinXP Pro twice to get it right. I did not bother about the speed of burning (2x in my case). The problem with the first download was I could not get the VCRTL.MAN currectly. I downloaded another XP iso image and burned it on another cd. Started installing from the first cd and once it booted (before the famous 39 min notice), I removed the first cd and waited for the prompt to insert the XP cd and popped in the second cd. It worked like charm and I had no problem. I would also suggest to go with FAT32 and not with NTFS. NTFS supporters can convert later once the installation is perfect. Hope it helps.


  13. matt

    i don’t know if this has been posted, but some people were saying after using your fix that they then get an error on the 4th line. this may be because they have word wrap on in note pad, with this enabled the second half of the third line becomes the 4th line which may explain why the 4th line is now the problem, hope this helps some people.

  14. matt

    well, another sucsess story, worked first time for me, i used win iso to rip my win-xp cd to the hard disk as an image, then replaced the with the one from this page. saved the iso, burned it to cd-rw at 2x, checked the file on the cd to make sure it had worked, and it had. so i installed xp and had no troubles. thank you so much, i’d have never done it without this site!!


  15. Stavrinos

    I checked the file and everything was OK with it.SO I decided to burn the CD again with a lower speed.I created an image with Alcohol 120% and reburned it using the same program, with 8X speed.Voila,it worked fine. I booted the computer using the CD and install Windows XP with SP1a just fine.Hope it works for all as it worked for me.

  16. Erhan

    Hi everybody..I’m from Turkey and I have good news for u all 2 fiz all these *.man errors… In addition to all these methodologies and Richard’s marvelleous technique here, I also tried other advices without burning any CDs and yes! it worked. How it works? If u have 2 partitions, it is easy. Copy all XP files to D: for instance and setup to C:. You get some .man errors like or etc. PANIC NOT! Go to MS’ website to download SP utility as Franks tells in this web page as follows: Go to microsoft get Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 1 Utility: Setup Disks for Floppy Boot Install 6 floppies. When you get these error insert floppy #1. Reboot, then #2, 3… 6… and VADAAAAA! MS XP is installed! Congratulations… now you can eat some turkish delight or schich kebap. LOVE From Turkey…

  17. sam

    Many thanks for your website richard. After 5 days of suffering I finally managed to install winXP. dåmn that manifest error

  18. Rico

    Hi. I had tried to do a clean boot from a copy of xp pro sp2, the downloading worked okay until I got to the “install windows” part of the process.It came up with the error message – SXS.DLL:Syntax error in manifest or policy file “D:i386asms52POLICYMSFTWINDOWSNETWORKINGRTCDLLRTCDLL.MAN” on line 0. Can anyone advise me in reguards to this error? It’s giving me a headache & I’m going nuts over it! I do not have the original installation CD

  19. Rico

    PS – I checked the CONTROLS folder on my cd & it contained following files –




    • Richard

      @Rico: What’s in the RTCDLL folder? Grab a copy of the RTCDLL.MAN file from another torrent, since you don’t have the CD. Also, try burning the CD with different software or version, and/or at the slowest burn speed. Try burning on CD-R disk instead of CD-RW. Good luck.

  20. Rico

    Hi Richard.

    The RTCDLL folder contains the following files –



    Does this help? I will try the other options and keep my fingers crossed. Thanks.


  21. Jason Sherry

    Re-burn the XP CD using a different program or slower burn rate. I burned 3 CDs, from two different ISOs, and got this error. I then burned a 3rd CD at 10x speeds and everything worked fine.

  22. Brian

    Thank you, Thank you new .man file worked great. My original disk was created through an electronic software distribution deal through my university. Reformatted the hard drive stuck the original in and it stopped halfway through.

    Greatly appreciate the info.



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