NTLDR is missing

Posted on 2004-08-06
Last Modified: 2012-05-05

Last week my motherboard died.  It was one of those ECS boards with the bad capacitors.  No problem - gives me a good excuse to upgrade.

So I get my new stuff and put it all together only to receive the friendly DOS greeting:

NTLDR is missing
Press Ctrl+Alt+Delete to Restart

Things I've tried:

FIXMBR & FIXBOOT from the repair console
Writing fresh copies of NTDETECT.COM & NTLDR to the root of C:
using the XP CD to do a repair on the OS
Reinstalling XP
Defragmenting the drive
testdisk (
Norton Utilities

The drive is a Western Digital WDC WD1000BB.  WD's test utility (Data Lifeguard) says the drive is fine.

I am able to boot into windows, but I have to use a floppy with NTDETECT.COM & NTLDR on it to do so.  When I boot with this floppy I receive the message "Invalid Boot.ini File - Booting from C:\Windows" and then XP loads normally.

My C:\boot.ini file looks fine to me:

[boot loader]
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Professional" /fastdetect

dcupdate tells me the boot code is already updated.

testdisk tells me that my boot sector is identical to the backup boot sector.

the disk in question is the master on IDE 0 - everything looks fine in BIOS

I'm hoping someone can help me fix this without reformatting the drive
Question by:brgivens
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LVL 92

Accepted Solution

nobus earned 100 total points
ID: 11742245
is your disk detected ok in the BIOS?
I've seen articles about the right number of heads causing this, look at

LVL 92

Expert Comment

ID: 11742252
and of course, if you have a new motherboard, it is likely to be a HAL problem : see this;nl;314070


Assisted Solution

LordRipper earned 100 total points
ID: 11742368
ok ...... go into your bios ..... change the boot secuence so that you boot first from the cd rom ......
then run the normal setup ...... but before it starts the instalation program wil ask you if you want to install a fress coppy or override the previous copy ....  then you just install it over the old XP instalation and this aught to fix it......
NTLDR error can be easily solved from the XP repair option after booting off the CD
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Expert Comment

ID: 11742381
This behavior occurs if the partition marked as active does not contain the Windows boot files or the boot files for another operating system. On Intel-based computers, the system partition must be a primary partition that has been marked as active for startup purposes. This partition must be located on the disk that the computer gains access to at startup. There can be only one active system partition at a time. If you want to use another operating system, you must first mark its system partition as active before restarting the computer.

IMPORTANT : Before performing the steps listed below, make sure that you have a good backup of your critical data files.
To resolve this behavior, use one of the following procedures:

Try changing the active partition by booting to a floppy disk and then using disk utilities to manually change the active partition:

1. Boot to a command prompt by using a Microsoft Windows 95, Microsoft Windows 98, or Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition (Me) boot floppy disk.
2. At the command prompt, type fdisk , and then press ENTER.
3. When you are prompted to enable large disk support, click Yes .
4. Click Set active partition , press the number of the partition that you want to make active, and then press ENTER.
5. Press ESC.
6. Remove the boot floppy disk, and then restart the computer.
* Boot the computer by using a Windows XP boot disk.

* If the partition that has been incorrectly marked as active is formatted in the FAT file system, the FAT32 file system, or the NTFS file system, you may be able to use the Windows Recovery Console to correct the behavior.

NOTE : The system partition refers to the disk volume that contains the files that are needed to start Windows (for example, Ntldr,Boot.ini, and On Intel x86-based computers, the system partition must be a primary partition that is marked active. On Intel x86 computers, this is always drive 0, the drive that the system BIOS searches when the operating system starts.

Using the Recovery Console, copy the Ntldr file from the Windows XP CD-ROM to the root directory of the current active partition. Follow these steps:
 1. Start your computer by using the Windows XP Setup floppy disks or by using the Windows XP CD-ROM.
 2. At the "Welcome to Setup" screen, press F10, or press R to repair.
 3. Press C to start the Recovery Console.
 4. Copy the Ntldr file from the Windows XP CD-ROM to the root of your system partition by using the following commands, pressing ENTER after each command:

1. Type cd .. to go to the root of drive C.
 Note that there is a space between the d and the two periods (..).
 2. Type the letter of the CD-ROM drive.
 3. Type cd i386 .
 4. Type Copy ntldr c: .
 5. Type Exit .

If the partition was not formatted by using Windows, you might also need to run the Recovery Console fixboot command to make the active partition bootable.

After you can boot into Windows, it is recommended that you use the Windows Disk Management snap-in tool to reset the original system partition as the active partition, and then restart the computer.

LVL 40

Assisted Solution

Fatal_Exception earned 100 total points
ID: 11742449
From you comment above, I am a little unclear on one point..  Did you say that you tried installing a fresh copy of XP onto the hard drive..??    Meaning deleting the partitions, recreating and formating them..?  If so, it should have marked your system parition as active for you...

Author Comment

ID: 11743344

The disk is properly detected in the BIOS.  I don't think it's a HAL problem because I reinstalled XP.


I've already reinstalled XP.  The drive has only one partition on it and it is active.  Just to check, I did try using fdisk to reset the partition as active, but it didn't fix the problem.  As mentioned in the original post, I did try using the Recovery Console to write fresh copies of NTLDR & NTDETECT.COM to the root of C:.


I did reinstall XP but I did not delete & recreate or reformat the partition (I didn't touch the partition).

Assisted Solution

rbkumaran earned 100 total points
ID: 11743486
You have replaced the Hard Disk and if I assume that you have overwritten the existing copy of Windows rather than doing a clean installation on a new folder location [without disturbing the existing installation] then this could be the problem.
Try to load Windows to a new folder and check if that helps. I can see the IDE / Chipset drivers causing the conflict.

Or,if you have access to another cmputer, take a data backup onto it and format and do a fresh installation

Good Luck!!!



Assisted Solution

bprimm earned 50 total points
ID: 11743819
This is quite a unique problem.
I would default the mainboard bios with the jumpers.
I would also remove all other devices from system otherthan the HD and mainboard.  Be sure HD is set to master with the jumper.
I also didn't see chkdisk as one of the utilities run on your drive, I would also do that from recovery console.  
If you have another XPP box, throw this drive in it and boot, if it has serious errors it will be fixed by the other XPP.

Other than that it really shouldn't be this hard, try a new mobo.

Good Luck,

Author Comment

ID: 11744776

It's the same HD as I used with the old motherboard.  I did overwrite the existing copy of Windows but the Device Manager looks fine - there are no unidentified devices and the IDE & chipset drivers look to be properly installed.  If it was a problem with the IDE / chipset drivers, I don't think I'd be able to load Windows at all.


I forgot to mention chkdisk (I've tried so many different things, it's hard to keep track).  When I ran chkdsk /f it did seems to correct something but when I rebooted, I got the same old annoying NTLDR message.  I tried the drive on another working mobo and got the same message.

Whatever this problem is, it's not showing up as a problem under any of the disk checking utilities I've used.  XP's Disk Management utility shows the disk as Healthy (System).  I even used Partition Magic to resize the partition and it did so without a hitch.

I think that either a virus infected the drive and rewrote both the boot & backup boot sectors or when the old mobo died, a power spike damaged the drive.  However, the drive doesn't appear to be damaged and I can read the boot sector using testdisk.  If the problem was caused by a virus, it seems a very strange coincidence that it happened at exactly the same time as the mobo died (I'm 95% sure that faulty capacitors killed the mobo - nothing to do with a virus).

I don't have a way to back up all my data other than using a slew of CDs (no thanks).  I have three HDs installed in the system (they're all pretty full), so if I can't figure out a simple way to fix this stupid problem I'll eventually break down and try installing Windows on one of the other drives.

Expert Comment

ID: 11744919
Have you checked the motherboard manufacturer for updated BIOS files?  I would give that a shot..

Also there is a hotfix for fragmentation issues..worth checking and giving Bill a call..;en-us;320397&Product=winxp


Expert Comment

ID: 11744923
Followup, I think this is the utility- you may want to check around yourself..

LVL 70

Assisted Solution

Merete earned 50 total points
ID: 11745994
you could slave your hdd to another machine and then save off all your stuff, then format it from that C drive. I use the cdrom plugs to slave troubled hdd as it uses a same similar drive, its a quick access point on the other machine. The other machine will or should detect new hardware instead of the cdrom.
This way you start with a  prettyclean slate  it does not remove all the data doing it this way but its good, when you put it back into your new machine run the instal cd,
 its a better option as new mainboard and xp prefer new formatted hdd. And when its all working ok slave it back and put your stuff back. Regards M

Author Comment

ID: 11757713
Ugh... it took way too long for me to think to do the blatantly obvious... flash the BIOS.  All's good now.  Thanks and points to everyone who pitched in .02 or more.
LVL 40

Expert Comment

ID: 11757826
Good work..  and thanks.

LVL 70

Expert Comment

ID: 11760719
great you solved it thank you brgivens  happy computing

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