NTLDR Missing intermittently

A friend asked me to look at their PC because the vendor has never been able to fix it. Once every few boots, it says either "NTLDR manque" (french for NTLDR missing) or "error accessing disk" (or something like that - i don't have the info with me).

I've done a "chkdsk /F", a full reformat and reinstall of XP (it had 98SR2), and I found another utility that does a physical scan of the disk also. I also tried updating the system bios (it's a QDI Legend Advance motherboard).

I've tried every diagnostic utility that I could find. I tried the SISoft burn-in wizard and some memory scanner. Everything works fine. It's just that periodically it will not boot. I must shut down and restart several times before it will reboot.

Any ideas?
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Adrian DobrotaNetworking EngineerCommented:

Hard Drive Diagnostics

*****Vendor Specific Support/Diagnostics*****

Maxtor/Quantum (Fireball) http://www.maxtor.com/en/support/products/index.htm
Western Digital http://support.wdc.com/download/
Samsung http://www.samsungelectronics.com/hdd/support/utilities/utilities_index.html
Seagate http://www.seagate.com/support/seatools/index.html
IBM/Hitachi http://www.hgst.com/hdd/support/download.htm#DFT
fujitsu/Seimens http://www.fcpa.fujitsu.com/download/hard-drives/#diagnostic

If you do not know the drive manifacturer try some generic drive testers


ZDU http://www.webattack.com/get/zdu.shtml
Zdu is a diagnostic utility for disks & directories. It comes as a GUI version as well as a commandline only version (both included).

AIDA http://www.webattack.com/get/aida32.shtml
An easy to use report wizard allows you to create detailed reports in the format of your choice


DiskChecker http://www.webattack.com/get/diskchecker.shtml
Disk Checker is a disk diagnostics, repair and disk image tool for FAT and NTFS.

Drive Health http://www.webattack.com/get/drivehealth.gif.shtml
Drive Health helps you to estimate your hard disks life resource. It allows you to predict possible hard drive failure

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Adrian DobrotaNetworking EngineerCommented:
Very suspect. I suspect a failing disk though.
Adrian DobrotaNetworking EngineerCommented:
There is a small chance for a failing IDE controller (this can be tested by booting a few (tens) times with a nother hdd instead of this one). Anyway, I doubt a failing controller can boot two times from threee attempts. It shouldn't boot at all. In fact it shouldn't detect the drive.
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I had a similar problem a while back.  It turned out be be a bad stick of ram, try swapping some from another machine or if it has more than one stick try removing one, see if still happens and then try the other etc.

I know you've tried a memory scanner but they dont always pick up a problem.
Adrian DobrotaNetworking EngineerCommented:
Mr. Skinny ... I'd diagnose bad RAM too, but that should manifest in some other cases too, such computer freezes, errors copying files (especially while installing Windows, that's a very stressing operation for RAM that rkogelhe said he already did). So I don't think a bad RAM stickj can cause ONLY this problem.
If you don't have a spare RAM stick you can try testing for a few hours  www.memtest86.com    but again ... I'm sceptic
rkogelheAuthor Commented:
k... thanks both for your help. i'll try some of the diags tonight. i'll try to dig up another disk somewhere also. the memory scanner i tried was memtest86.

i'll try to update this tomorrow...
Adrian DobrotaNetworking EngineerCommented:
waiting ....
Try to check u mainboard.
I was having this problem recently.
The OS startup program will be missing by it self.
Change a HDD also will have the same error.
pegasysIT, System Admin, Development and Stack DevelopmentCommented:
Whats happening is that the FAT is disappearing. fdisk the entire PC, and reinstall XP/NT OS... Dont forget to fdisk the MBR :-) i.e. boot off of floppy, in MSDOS mode, type fdisk.exe /MBR
that shopuld clear the MBR, what could be causing the prob, and tada, reinstall finish :-)
Adrian DobrotaNetworking EngineerCommented:
pegasys .... wiping out the system and reinstalling is the last resort, and most people don't call an "expert" just to hear this especially that he might experience some hardware errors, so a reinstall is just usless wasted-time.
pegasysIT, System Admin, Development and Stack DevelopmentCommented:
With all due respect, that was an expert opinion. Would anyone else have a better way of fixing a FAT?
If the hardware is literally NOT firing up, then its definately hardware. I've twice come across this before, the first time, it was just a dickie power connection on the HDU, try changing the power connection for another. The second, it was the fat had corrupted itself. Sometimes a fat garbles itself, needs resetting, also achieved via LLF (low level format), even fdisk/mbr...

Another option is to ghost the harddrive (thats excl FAT), then MBR it, then resore the ghost :-)

Next... this site is here for sharing information, not questioning peoples expertise, so I ask you kindly to keep your views of who is and who isnt an expert to yourself; myself, and many others on here wont/wouldnt appreciate that... Please refer to the Terms of Service...
Adrian DobrotaNetworking EngineerCommented:
pegasys ... I apologize if my remark offended you. It was not intended so.
I used the term "expert" w/o intending to offend you. I personally don't consider myself an expert ... anyway ... it was not intended to offend you or anybody.

About ghosting the drive ... ghost won't clone a drive with FAT errors AFAIK.

rkogelheAuthor Commented:
Thanks for your responses.

I did already install XP, and when I did, I deleted all the existing partitions (with the installer) and recreated, but what I don't know is if that would have recreated the MBR...

I'll probably do as you say and fdisk /MBR because I saw that as a solution on another site.

Still haven't run the diags tho. (no time... yesterday was beaujolais nouveau)...
pegasysIT, System Admin, Development and Stack DevelopmentCommented:
kronostm, no offence taken :-) I must have misunderstood..

Try downloading the diag tools from the manufacturer from the website, run a low level format on the drive, then do a thorough scan on it (scandisk could do the same, but own manuf. tools would be beter)..

If by the off chance you are running a Fujitsu, there is a massive batch that went out with that problem. This is known, and it is noted somewhere on the web, I remember reading about it. The company that I work for had to return a load due to clients coming back with crashed hdu's...
Adrian DobrotaNetworking EngineerCommented:
rkogelhe ... the ball is in your half now.  ;-)
rkogelheAuthor Commented:
Whew... sorry I didn't get back to you sooner. Women, flus, and colds...

Tried every test known to man.

Then just using the XP fixmbr. It did something and I suspect the partition table was not in there, so booted from the PM disks. PM complains about the disk geometry and refuses to do anything. Cool. Never even heard of some of the things it was sayting ("1m 40s" what the heck is that?).

Tried reinstalling XP and got a PNP driver error during the setup loading.

Ok... downloaded the seagate disk wizard thing. That repartitioned and reformatted and I also told it to redo the MBR.

Able to reinstall XP. So far no problem. Testing...

Adrian DobrotaNetworking EngineerCommented:
Good work.
Keep us informed.
rkogelheAuthor Commented:
The machine worked fine when it was running for a while (including several reboots during s/w installation). When I shut it down for the evening, the next morning it started complaining.

The first boot froze with a blank screen right at the beginning of the boot. The second complained about ntoskrnl.exe being corrupt or not found. The third about hal.dll. The fourth boot worked.

So it seems that something needs to "warm up" before I can boot.

I'm going to recommend my friend buy a new disk and use this one just for backups and non-critical data.

I seem to remember that in the 90's, we had something by Norton that allowed us to scan a disk and mark sectors as bad. Why does this no longer exist?
rkogelheAuthor Commented:
It's painful to move XP from drive to drive:

1) Install new drive as slave.
2) Us PM to copy partition from C to D.
3) Reboot D as master. Doesn't work. Repair with XP CD.
4) Use PM to switch C and D (reboot).
5) Use drive wizard to change all refs of D to C.
5) Reformat new partitions on old volume.
6) Reboot doesn't work since XP was using vol info on D.
7) Repair XP with CD again.


Testing... so far so good...
rkogelheAuthor Commented:
Definitely quite confident that it was the drive.

I have the problematic drive as F: now and sometimes it shows up as unformatted. If I reboot after the machine has been running for some time, the drive is fine (warmed-up).

So I think that about the only thing that we can learn from this is that it is possible that a drive can behave perfectly when it is warmed-up, but return errors when it still cold and that no matter the diagnostic, it's not going to find the problem. Another symptom would be this Partition Magic error about drive geometry. I think the only solution in this case is to replace the faulty drive.
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