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NT Server error - "A kernel file is missing from the disk"

Posted on 1998-10-14
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-12-19
The other day I found my NT web/email server crashed with the message "A kernel file is missing from the disk". When I try to restore I get into the startup disks and the machine hangs while "Checking hard drive".

Any thoughts? It sounds like I have some hard drive errors. I really don't want to scrap the whole install and start from scratch.
Question by:honnonc
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Accepted Solution

cmcgee earned 400 total points
ID: 1564124
Error Message: A Kernel File Is Missing from the Disk
Last reviewed: March 25, 1998
Article ID: Q176968


The information in this article applies to:
Microsoft Windows NT Workstation versions 3.5, 3.51 and 4.0
Microsoft Windows NT Server versions 3.5, 3.51 and 4.0

When you attempt to boot a Windows NT-based computer with a Windows NT File System (NTFS) system partition, your computer may hang after the Power On Self Test (POST), and you may receive the following error message:

   A kernel file is missing from the disk.
   Insert a system disk and restart the system.

NOTE: This article only applies to Intel-based computers with an NTFS primary bootable partition.

This issue can occur if the NTFS disk structure data contained in the Master File Table (MFT) is damaged or fragmented, preventing the Windows NT boot loader (Ntldr) from being located or read.

To resolve this issue, follow these steps:

Using the MS-DOS-based Fdisk utility, verify the system partition is the active partition. For information about how to do so, consult the documentation included with MS-DOS. If this does not resolve the issue, continue with step 2.

Attempt to repair the Ntldr file. For information about how to do so, please see the following article Microsoft Knowledge Base:

      ARTICLE-ID: Q155892
      TITLE     : Windows NT Boot Problem: Kernel File Is Missing From the

   If this does not resolve the issue, continue with step 3.

Use an anti-virus program to check for a boot sector virus. For information about how to do so, please see the following article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:

      ARTICLE-ID: Q122221
      TITLE     : How to Protect Boot Sector from Viruses in Windows NT

   If this does not resolve the issue, continue with step 4.

You may be able to access the system partition using a Windows NT boot disk. If you can access the system partition, you can create a backup of essential data files and reinstall Windows NT. For information about how to create a Windows NT boot disk, please see the following article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:

      ARTICLE-ID: Q119467
      TITLE     : Creating a Boot Disk for an NTFS or FAT Partition.

   NOTE: If you cannot access the system partition using a Windows NT boot
   disk, the NTFS MFT may be damaged, and the NTFS partition may need to
   be reformatted.

For additional information about troubleshooting damaged NTFS partitions, please see the following articles in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:

   ARTICLE-ID: Q155053
   TITLE     : Black Screen on Boot

   ARTICLE-ID: Q121517
   TITLE     : How to Recover From a Corrupt NTFS Boot Sector

   ARTICLE-ID: Q153973
   TITLE     : Recovering NTFS boot sector on NTFS partitions

For more information on the MFT and NTFS partition requirements, please see the following articles in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:

   ARTICLE-ID: Q114841
   TITLE     : Windows NT Boot Process and Hard Disk Constraints

   ARTICLE-ID: Q100108
   TITLE     : Overview of FAT, HPFS, and NTFS File Systems


Author Comment

ID: 1564125
I appreciate the thoroughness of your response! I will start with this information and see where I can go. Thanks.

Expert Comment

ID: 24499732
I just had this - fixed as follows:

boot off windows NT 4 cd. go to install the os ON THE SAME PARTITION C:/same location - next choose option  leave file system intact - no changes. The install will then proceed to fix the system - it says doing maintenance or something like that - when it fixes - it says f3 i think to restart - you can then take the cd out as THE PROBLEM SHOULD B RECTIFIED. - the OS then boots ok from c: (no need to continue with re-install)

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