I tried all 10 options - but none of them would boot Windows XP

This page is part of a tutorial for working around the error message "NTLDR is Missing". To start from the beginning, visit ntldrismissing.com

You should stop and seek professional help.

Try the ntldrismissing.com boot disk by Lazesoft available with a free trial.

By using the boot disk, we've bypassed any potential problem with the boot files (and "Master Boot Record") the computer was trying to use. So now we can either put your data at risk and attempt to "Repair" Windows XP to make it bootable again; or we could pull the hard drive out and attempt to recover the data out of the hard drive.

Safely recover your data

Honestly, at this point I'd just recommend taking it to any mom and pop computer repair place, and telling them you want to have them buy an external hard drive, backup all your data from the broken computer to the external hard drive, and you will pay them for the external hard drive, and $100 for their time. Then buy a new computer, and plug in the external hard drive, and start backing up your important data with a free 2 gig Dropbox account so this doesn't happen again.

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However if you consider seeking professional help as "a failure", and by golly "failure is not an option", go with the Repair.

The Hard Drive has failed and no software will save it

It's possible the hard drive itself has failed, and if that's the case, I heard one of the people on the MaximumPC podcast recommend this company for data recovery: http://www.quetek.com/

Repair Windows XP: Risking Your Data

First: Was the directory named something "nonstandard", IE: other than C:\Windows ? If so, the boot disk is trying to boot that, so you would need to change the boot.ini file to point to that new location. Which is kind of impossible for anything besides the floppy, and I have to imagine that's not an option for anyone here, so read on for more repair options.

Repair Install: Using Installation CD

Adding a new hard drive or a new drive array often causes your computer to miss the NTLDR, to fix it you'll want to specify in the BIOS which device to boot from first, and you'll want it on your IDE0 channel and as the master (first on the chain) with jumpers set to Master, and then use fdisk to make sure that the first partition is a primary partition (and set as active), and that none of the other drives or partitions are set to active. Try setting the BIOS to it's defaults or clearing the CMOS memory. If you made changes as drastic as a new motherboard you may want to run a repair install as described here.

Performing a "Repair" installation of windows. Get an installation CD: (the full version of the Windows XP CD, the upgrade version is non-bootable). Start your computer with your XP (or 2000) CD (in your BIOS "Boot Sequence" the CD-Rom will need to be accessed before the hard drive, and a dialog will appear that says "Press any key to boot from CD..." and you need to press a key on the keyboard to have it begin booting from the CD)


Recovery Console Option

You can choose to repair a windows installation from the recovery console. Once you are logged in to your recovery console, select the number that represent your C: drive more than likely it will be 1. It will ask for your admin password, enter it you have one or just hit enter if you don't know it. Follow the recovery console instructions from here


Also the bootcfg command can be used from the recovery console as a possible solution. The extent of the command is to lengthy to go into here, but feel free to google it


Then try using the floppy again

Hardware Problems

If neither of those options worked, try checking your hardware, replace cables, try different power cable, ensure jumpers are on properly, ensure that the drive you want to boot from is on the Primary IDE connection (IDE 0) and is set as the first device on the IDE cable (Master). At best your data is still intact, so you can put the drive in another computer and back it up. You can most likely save your data, but if your okay with losing it, fdisk to erase all your partitions, recreate one as primary, set it to active, and format it, run sys c: and see if you can't reboot to at least a C: prompt.

You also may be having hard drive failure problems, I recommend SpinRite. I've been a user for years, and have gotten 3 hard drives working enough to get the data from them, and every episode of the Security Now podcast Steve reads a user testimonial on how well it works.

Still nothing?

If your still looking for help, of all the other online write ups, I found this the most helpful (be sure to first select what you were doing that got you into the NTLDR situation):

Alternative boot solutions

Other people have created their own "work around" to boot Windows XP; or like Hirens, took my exact files and put it into Hirens Boot CD (it's still free, so they have my blessing).
Ultimate Boot CD
Hirens Boot CD - Download
Create a Hiren's Boot CD USB Flashdrive (1080p)

If reading stuff online feels like you are going in circles and you need some serious help, you can email me (milescomer@gmail.com) and I'll post your question and answer to my blog (anonymously of course).

Go back to the main ntldrismissing.com page.