Windows could not properly load the XYZ keyboard layout

In my rôle as the family technical support department, I get to poke around without really knowing what I'm doing and hope to stumble across a solution. Sometimes I succeed; sometimes I fail.

Today, I'm documenting one of my successes in the hope that it might come in handy for you, the technical support department for your family. (If not, then I guess today is not your day.)

The boot drive on the laptop belonging to one of my relatives became corrupted, and her brother-in-law had the honor of extracting the drive, sticking it into a working computer, doing the chkdsk magic, reinstalling the software that got corrupted, and otherwise getting the machine back on its feet. (It's a good thing I wasn't the one to do it because all of the programs are in Chinese, and I can't read Chinese beyond a few dozen characters.) Anyway, the machine returned to life, mostly. The bizarro proprietary hardware (that a certain manufacturer insists on using in order to make their machines special) still doesn't have drivers, but it was happy for the most part.

There was just one problem remaining, and it fell upon me to fix it: She couldn't type Chinese characters any more. Normally, this is done by selecting an appropriate IME, but no matter what we picked, it was as if we were always using the US-English keyboard.

One clue was that if you deleted the IME and then re-added it, you got the error message Windows could not properly load the XYZ keyboard layout.

Here is how I fixed it. (This was a Windows XP machine.) Maybe it will help you, maybe not.

First, go to the Regional and Language Options control panel and set everything back to English (US):

  • On the Advanced tab, under "Select a language to match the language version of the non-Unicode programs you want to use", select "English (United States)".
  • On the Languages tab, under "Text services and input languages", click the Details button. Change your default input language to "English (United States) - US" and remove all the non-English keyboard layouts.

Restart to make sure that nobody is using those old services.

After the restart, go back to the Regional and Language Options control panel, go to the Languages tab, and uncheck "Install files for East Asian languages." That is the whole point of this exercise. All the other steps were just removing enough obstacles so we could do that.

Restart to make sure nobody is using any of the East Asian fonts.

After the restart, add the East Asian fonts back, and when you're asked whether you should use the files already on the machine, say "No." That way, they will be re-copied from the CD.

(This step was trickier for me, because one of the hardware devices that didn't work was the DVD drive! I thought I was stuck, but then I realized that the wireless network antenna still was functional, so I went to another computer in the house, put the Windows XP CD in the drive, and shared out the CD-ROM drive. Then I went back to the first computer and told it to install the files from the second computer.)

Once everything gets reinstalled (including the corrupted keyboard layout files), you can go back and add the Chinese IME back, and reset all those other settings back to Chinese.

Neither I nor the owner of the laptop is very good at the other's native language (though she is far better at English than I am at Chinese), so fixing her computer is the best way I have of showing her my appreciation.

Comments (14)
  1. nathan_works says:

    You are giving me bad flashbacks of helping set up the internationalization machines in the QA lab.. Such a necessary task, but could be very painful at times.

  2. andy says:

    I fear the day this info will become useful ;-)

  3. this box intentionally left blank says:

    > fixing her computer is the best way I have of showing her my appreciation

    Your appreciation of what? Enquiring minds want to know.

    [What, you don’t like your relatives? -Raymond]
  4. James Schend says:

    Maybe in a few more years, solid-state drives will save us all from the dropped laptop corrupted disk demons.

  5. Jonathan says:

    Nathan_works: My experience with testing various-languages machines is:

    English – no problems

    European languages – You can manage. And you get to read out words in a funny accent. I like Italian best.

    Russian – You find someone who speaks it (lots of those around here)

    East-Asian languages – Uh-oh…

    And more to the point, my tech support for people who want to type Chinese often fails at the "you’ll need the Windows XP CD" point. That’s why everything from the CD is installed in Vista.

  6. Peter says:

    Raymond: "What, you don’t like your relatives?"

    I adore mine, but not enough to navigate dialogs saying things like "Select a language to match the language version of the non-Unicode programs you want to use".

    I think I would have been much more likely to install an OS from scratch when the boot drive became corrupted than to try to recover it; I admire your (and his) persistence…

  7. Tony Siu says:

    I had the same experience a couple years ago helping my relatives with her Chinese version of XP – I managed to stumble my way through the Control Panel (I could just recognised where the Region and Language option is, everything else was a blur). Luckily, I had a copy of the CD nearby. In the end, I scored myself a fancy lunch!

  8. Nick says:


    The problem is that there is often more stored on the boot volume than just the operating system. This is essentially always true if you buy a PC from Dell/HP/Gateway/etc and usually true in any other case.

    Recovering a system and files from a failed disk is one of my least favorite thing to do, but is becoming more and more common as computers bought 3-5 years ago begin to age.  I’ve been encouraging (with varying success) my family to buy an external drive and do simple Robocopy backups.

    It’s surprising how many people don’t even realize hard drives can utterly fail and they can lose everything.

  9. zmx says:

    "East-Asian languages – Uh-oh…"

    You should be able to find a Chinese, or Korean, or Japanese co-worker to help you on this, just as you find someone who speaks Russian.

  10. Worf says:


    True, but often the easiest is to reformat and reinstall. Given how cheap drives are, you can toss in a new laptop drive, reinstall, and get a case for the old one.

    Especially when it isn’t the hard drive that’s failed, but the filesystem that’s gotten horrendously corrupted somehow. Fixing the problem might only be temporary until the drive corrupts itself again. Reinstalling gives it a fresh start.

  11. this box intentionally left blank says:

    What, you don’t like your relatives?

    I couldn’t eat a whole one.

    You made it sound (to me) like you were returning a favour she had done you, that was all.

  12. Peter says:

    @Nick: In my experience, no software supplied with most PC’s by Dell/HP/whoever is worth saving anyway. If you mean some sort of weird "restore partition" thing, those are clearly useless since they obviously won’t work if your hard drive dies – having it on another medium is essential.

    Obviously I’d save their personal data before nuking the drive (Knoppix or similar is excellent for this), but my experience of trying to rescue corrupted operating systems is that it’s easier to get on with reinstalling.

  13. hamy says:

    You simply saved my a**. Thank you

  14. Zen Luo says:

    "so fixing her computer is the best way I have of showing her my appreciation"

    Hello Raymond! I use this trick also… when I like a girl and she call me for support I always spend a lot time with here to fix the computer problem… ha ha!

    thanks for the blog raymond i’m a reader day by day

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