Recently we were going through a upgrade exercise for our entire Windows estate to patch them to out latest security and company specific components. We encountered, so far, two servers that when rebooted, Windows 2000 will not start up and they showed this error
Windows 2000 could not start because of an error in the software. Please report this problem as Loader Error 3.
Starting up in recovery console or safe mode is no hope as we encountered the same error. So this points to a fundamental issue with the Operating System.
Searches on the internet seems to indicate boot partitioning issue, with running fixboot as a solution. But for our case, Windows did try to start, you can see the Windows startup (black) screen and the cursor progress bar moving for a short while before it stops
Then we found an MSKB article that seems to be related to our problem: System may not start when creating a large number of logical units and volumes
Both broken systems were SQL server boxes and we know that they do have a large number of SAN volumes and we are constant allocating and deallocating drives due to new disk space requirements.
So I fired up a copy of our WinPE boot disk (or if you have your Windows 2000 CD), go into command prompt and checked the size of the c:\winnt\system32\config\system file. Is about 9 MB, which is pretty near the limit described in the KB.
So I copied out the system file into my work server, used regedit to delete both SCSI and STORAGE keys in controlset001 (I ignored the steps to remove controlset002 as its not necessary for this issue), copied back to the broken machine and reboot and viola! the server is back up alive.