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Dell Inspiron 1000 boot up error: NTLDR is missing, press CNTL-ALT-DEL to continue

Dell Inspiron 1000, apon bootup gives the following error message: NTLDR is missing, press CNTL-ALT-DEL to continue. computer will not boot up. does this mean hardware might be missing, or is it likely software related?
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2 Solutions
1) Could be a failing harddrive, Use the vendor diagnostics to check.

2) Boot using your OS CD and go into repair console,
fixboot and fixmbr, and see if that helps.

If not, I would work on recovering data by using an adapter to connect to IDE or USB, and see if the data is there, then think about doing a repair install.

Other options are a UBCD CD or a Live CD from knoppix or similar.

I hope this helps
Alan HendersonCommented:
Assuming that you're running XP and if fixboot / fixmbr don't work..

If you can manage to boot the XP CD:
       1. Insert the Windows XP bootable CD into the computer.
       2. When prompted to press any key to boot from the CD, press any key.
       3. Once in the Windows XP setup menu press the "R" key to repair Windows.
       4. Log into your Windows installation by pressing the "1" key and pressing enter.
       5. You will then be prompted for your administrator password, enter that password.
       6. Copy the below two files to the root directory of the primary hard disk. In the below example we are copying these files from the CD-ROM drive letter "E". This letter may be different on your computer.
          copy e:\i386\ntldr c:\
          copy e:\i386\ntdetect.com c:\
       7. Once both of these files have been successfully copied, remove the CD from the computer and reboot.

There's a lot more information here:

If that doesn't work,  you may need to wipe your hard disc. If it comes to that, Darik's Boot and Nuke is an excellent free tool.
For hard drive testing see

http://www.hitachigst.com/hdd/support/download.htm               Drive Fitness Test
http://www.maxtor.com/en/support/products/index.htm               Maxtor & Quantum
http://www.fcpa.fujitsu.com/support/hard-drives/software_utilities.html#diagnostic Fujitsu
http://www.samsung.com/Products/HardDiskDrive/utilities/shdiag.htm     Samsung
http://www.seagate.com/support/seatools/index.html               Seagate
http://support.wdc.com/download/#diagutils                    Western Digital
http://www.hgst.com/hdd/support/download.htm             IBM & Hitachi  DFT

For knoppix look for a newer version at
you can also boot from a knoppix cd, to be sure the hard is still ok :

Might just not be reading teh boot.ini properly....

in the recovery console....

bootcfg /rebuild

then reboot.....

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