It's possible you can fix this by unplugging a USB device or setting the PC's BIOS back to defaults. If that doesn't fix it, this boot disk will work around boot sector issues and missing boot files; but it won't make a difference if you have an incorrect BIOS configuration, a large number of missing or corrupt files, a bad hard drive, or Windows isn't installed.
Update 2015-07-18: Yes, it still works.
Get a blank floppy/cd-r/usb (whatever is on it will be erased), and put it into a working computer.
Tip: If you can't go to a friend or neighbors, try a library, or a FedEx Kinkos.
Floppy fixntldr.exe | CD-R fixntldriso.zip | USB ntldrusb.zip
For WinXP 64 bit: Floppy 64ntflop.exe | CD-R 64ntiso.zip | Files 64ntfile.zip
Backup copies of these files available at http://ntldrismissing.com What if? My backup system isn't Windows, but a Mac / Linux or another OS.
*Floppy: Double click fixntldr.exe. Click OK to overwrite the blank floppy disc in the working computer, you should see some screens about writing a new floppy disk. (You can download fixntldr_RawRite.zip if you want to use your own version of RawRite.
*CD-R: Note: Burnable DVD+R may not work, I haven't tried it yet. Right click fixntldriso.zip and "Extract All" then right click fixntldr.iso and follow the prompts to "burn" the content to CD. If using Windows XP you'll need a program to burn the ISO file, "ISO Recorder" is a great free program. Watch my "Make CD" YouTube video. When done, the CD should look like this.
Put the new disk you have just created into the computer that gets the NTLDR is missing error message, turn the broken computer off.
Power on the broken computer with the floppy/cd-r/usb inside it/plugged into it (if the computer was already on, restart it). Once your computer gets past the BIOS screen your computer should try to access the boot disk and you should see a black screen with white letters (What if I don't see this screen?). that says:
1ST TRY THIS seleccione esto primero
2ND TRY THIS essayez ceci en deuxieme
3RD TRY THIS wahlen Sie diesen Third
4TH TRY THIS selezioni questo fourth
5TH TRY THIS selecione este fifth
6TH TRY THIS seleccione este sexto
7TH TRY THIS essayez ceci en septieme
8TH TRY THIS wahlen Sie dieses achte
9TH TRY THIS selezioni questo nono
10TH TRY THIS selecione este decimo
(I threw in some Spanish / French / German / Italian / Portuguese for international flavor.)
This file is set up to automatically select the "1ST TRY THIS" choice after 30 seconds. Try it first, if it was the wrong selection, you will likely get one of these four errors:
Error 1. Windows could not start because file
Error 2. Windows could not start because of a computer disk hardware configuration problem. Could not read from the selected boot disk. Check boot path and disk hardware. Please check the Windows documentation about hardware disk configuration and your hardware reference manuals for additional information.
Error 3. I/O Error accessing boot sector file multi(0)disk(0)fdisk(0)BOOTSECT.DOS
Error 4. Immediate reboot
If you did get an error, try option 2. Most computers will boot with either option 1 or option 2. Of course if option 2 doesn't work, try option 3, etc, until you have tried all 10.
If none work, you can try pressing F8 at the "1st Try This" selection screen, it will give you a prompt where you can select Safe Mode, and then try the "1st Try This" option again. Safe Mode is a special "minimal" version of Windows that doesn't load certain parts of the operating system that might have caused the problem. (What if none of the options worked?) .
If you got back into Windows, stop whatever you are doing and backup your most important information from this computer.
Hi, I'm Miles Comer, I'm glad you got back into Windows, but stop trying to fix this computer. Give yourself a pat on the back for getting this far. Now let's get all those baby pictures put somewhere safe. A super easy way is by making a copy of them "in the cloud" using a service like Dropbox. If you signup with this promo link of mine: http://db.tt/D5BQcbf they will give me some free space because I told you about them. It's like a way you can help me back, and you don't even have to pay anything.
Apparently Microsoft has another option of a very similar quality called "One Drive" which also has a referral link you can sign up with and they'll give me additional storage. Sign up for One Drive.
Now that you are done backing up the most important info, try to change back whatever you were last doing and boot normally, it that doesn't work, put the floppy/cd/usb and boot back into Windows. Download fixntldr.zip, double click to open it, and copy "ntldr", "boot.ini", and "ntdetect.com" to: "My Computer > Local Disk C:\", and if it asks to overwrite, let it overwrite. Right click each file, choose properties, uncheck the Read Only attribute, and click OK.
If you can't see these files, you need to go into Control Panel > Folder Options > Tab: View > clear the checkbox for "Hide protected operating system files (Recommended)".
If you copy the file over and boot up and get a "NTLDR is compressed" error message, be sure to uncheck "compress contents to save space" as an option on the "Local Disk C:\" drive.
All done? Hi, I'm Miles Comer (on twitter as @ntldrismissing ) and I developed this "solution" back in 2002 when I had to fix the family computer back home without me being there. If I fixed it for you, might I humbly suggest you use a credit card or PayPal to donate for $5 or whatever amount you choose.
PayPal email address: email@example.com
If you don't have a credit card or pay pal account, you can mail a check to me, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll let you know my mailing address.
If you want to say "thanks, it worked for me", just add a comment to this blog post "Sing your praises here".
The cost to host this site has been paid "for life" (thanks Colin Carlsen), so the only expense is paying to reserve the name ntldrismissing dot com, and trying to respond to YouTube comments in a timely manner. Getting those "You got $5" email from Paypal sure does put a smile on my face and I very much appreciate it.
Speaking of, I've gotten a handful of people asking "how much money do you make from donations?", and just from a quick glance at my email, I get a $5 donation about every 5 weeks. It used to be more, when there was more Windows XP installs :-)
A free way to help me would be to link back to my webpage. Either from your own web page, or if you belong to any discussion forum that has to do with computers, or has a lounge section, why not let everyone know I helped you out by making a post and in that post, link back to my webpage? Use this address in case I change something in the future:
Help me and you by backing up your data with Dropbox: Dropbox is a free program that will automatically backup everything you put in the "My Dropbox" folder. If you don't already have a free "Dropbox" account. If you sign up with this link: http://db.tt/D5BQcbf I get additional space to store stuff. Dropbox is a program that creates a folder called "My Dropbox" and anything you put in that folder gets backed up to their website, and if you have more than one computer, or like an iPhone / iPad, Android, or Blackberry, it will sync the folder to all the devices. So if your computer dies on you again, these "most important documents on dropbox" will be available on the other computers, or on the website.
The free Dropbox account is 2 gigs. I personally paid $100 to get 50 gigs for a year. And when I say "I paid" I mean "Your donations paid", so thanks again :-)
Oh and one more thing about Dropbox, is my Mom has her own free 2 gig dropbox account, I can make a new folder called "Miles and Mom's shared files" and then share it with her dropbox account, if she accepts, whenever I want to send her a file, I just put it in the "My Dropbox Miles and Mom's shared files" folder, and moments later, it appears on her computer. It's great for sharing all those pictures directly from my digital camera, and I don't have to upload them to a website first.
So again, if you don't have it, you should, free 2 gig Dropbox account, and put your most important 2 gigs of files there.
Advertisement: For $25 you too can get a banner ad on this page for 1 month. The good people at Lazesoft sell a boot disk that does this fix and a bunch of other things, feel free to check them out.
One last thing: If you ever come up with your own solution for a problem, post it on the internet! Imagine all the good fixes that just get emailed from one person to another and are lost to the rest of the world.
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:
Come back if you still get the error after that. Go back
If you want to make a floppy yourself, format it using a Windows NT/2000/XP computer (it can't be Windows 95/98/ME) and then get a copy of 3 files from a working Windows NT/2000/XP computer: NTLDR, ntdetect.com, and boot.ini come off the root of the C: drive. Either put those on the floppy and boot up with it, or somehow copy those to the C: drive of the broken computer.
If you can't get access to those files, but still don't want to run an executable from a website off the internet, download and expand onto the floppy this zip file: fixntldr.zip.
What's in fixntldr.zip?
Two program files copied from a Windows XP installation named "ntldr" and "ntdetect.com" these assist in booting your existing installation.
And a text file named "boot.ini" that is what you use to make the selection of which partition and disk you are trying to boot from. The contents of boot.ini are as follows:
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)Windows="1ST TRY THIS seleccione esto primero" /fastdetect
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(1)partition(1)Windows="2ND TRY THIS essayez ceci en deuxieme" /fastdetect
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)Windows="3RD TRY THIS wahlen Sie diesen Third" /fastdetect
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(1)partition(2)Windows="4TH TRY THIS selezioni questo fourth" /fastdetect
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(3)Windows="5TH TRY THIS selecione este fifth" /fastdetect
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(1)partition(3)Windows="6TH TRY THIS seleccione este sexto" /fastdetect
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(4)Windows="7TH TRY THIS essayez ceci en septieme" /fastdetect
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(1)partition(4)Windows="8TH TRY THIS wahlen Sie dieses achte" /fastdetect
C:="9TH TRY THIS selezioni questo nono"
D:="10TH TRY THIS selecione este decimo"
winxp.ini has "Winxp" instead of Windows, and Winnt.ini has "Winnt" instead of Windows.
I threw in some Spanish / French / German / Italian / Portuguese for international flavor.
The contents of fixntldr.bat file is:
(It is renaming the files on C:, copying the files from A:, then removing the hidden, read only, system, and archive attributes. My sincere thanks to Jorge Toscano for providing the code for the bat file and the Portuguese translation)
How to make a bootable CD http://nightowl.radified.com/bootcd/bootcdintro.html Go Back
Floppy: (fixntldr-winnt if you are using Windows 2000 or Windows NT4) FIXNTLDR ISO image for Windows NT4 and Windows 2000 (ntldrusb-winnt for Windows NT4 or 2000 or upgrades from)
I made the disk an executable to make it easier to make a floppy. Of course that only works for Microsoft OS's. If you back up system is Linux or any other alternative operating system, then use xpnt4lix.zip / xpnt4lix.rar for Windows XP installs or 2knt4lix.zip / 2knt4lix.rar for Windows 2000 or NT4 installs, you will need to uncompress those files). (These are previous versions in case those img files don't work for you: fixntldrimg.zip or fixntldrimg.rar). You'll need a program like rawrite.exe (which works in DOS if you can get there from a Win98 boot disk) but for your OS. Read RedHat talk about making a floppy from an image (and I have it on good word that the command in linux is "dd if=filename.img of=/dev/fd0" or do a search on Google. You may also be able to do that linux command line in a Mac. But if you have an easy way to make a boot floppy on a Mac I don't know about, please let me know email@example.com , or just send it along using one of the forms. If you give me a solution. I'll give you $10 from the pay pal account on this site.
If none of these options work for you, check out the What if I don't want to download a file from a website I don't trust? section to try and find a way you can create the disk yourself with your current configuration, then drop me a line to let me know how you did it. Go Back.
For a floppy: Instead of just the fixntldr.exe, use the fixntldr-winnt.exe file if your system is NT4, or 2000, or was upgraded from a previous installation of NT4 or 2000.
For a CD-RW: fixntldriso4w2k.zip
If you named your windows directory something like "shinyhappypeople" then open the boot.ini file and change any mention of "windows" to "shinyhappypeople" like so:
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)shinyhappypeople="1ST TRY THIS"
Save changes, and put the disk back in and continue on trying the 10 choices. Go Back
It's possible that the .zip file only was placed on the disk. What we're looking for is inside the zip file, running THAT file so that it "unpacks" and is written to the disk. So if you open the disk in the good computer, you should see something that looks like boot files, or at least a readme.txt file. If you see readme.txt, then go to next paragraph about boot order.
Some computers, when booting up, will say "Press F9 for Boot Device" or maybe "Boot Options" or "Setup", etc.
What we want to do is "force" the computer to choose our new boot disk as the device it boots from. So try to press whatever key it wants to change the regular boot process; sometimes if you can't see it prompt you for anything, you can tap the Esc, End, Delete, F2, F9, F10, F12 keys; or maybe even try holding them down, to get it to stop and ask you "How do you want to boot?".
If you do not see the screen come up with the different selections of boot devices, we may have to "Enter Setup" and find a setting where we can change the "Boot Order" or "Boot Priority" to boot from the Floppy/CD/USB before booting from the hard drive. Then Save your Changes, and Exit. Go Back
By using the boot disk, we've bypassed any problems with the MBR and NTLDR file that the hard drive in your computer was trying to use. First: Was the directory named something "nonstandard", IE: other than C:\Windows ? If so scroll up a little on this page and check out those options. If it was C:\Windows , or you don't ever remember having it set to something weird, or someone else installed WindowsXP for you (like you bought it that way) then that's probably not the issue.
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.
However if you consider seeking professional help as "a failure", and by golly "failure is not an option":
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)
See screenshot of the repair install in action:
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. Go Back.
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.
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):
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/ If reading stuff online feels like you are going in circles and you need some serious help, you can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I'll post your question and answer to my blog (anonymously of course). Go Back
Sign up for a free 2 gig account at Dropbox and put your most important files there.
Try setting BIOS to default, reseating IDE / SATA / Power cables, double checking all of your settings basically. Sometimes the NTLDR file will be sitting right in your Recycle Bin and you can just restore it.
Once back into Windows, right click on the My Computer option, choose the Manage option. The Computer Management window will open, click on "Disk Management" on the left pane. One of the disks it lists, and one of the drives on it, will need to be marked as active. It will be which drive letter you have placed the 3 boot files into (this will likely be the C: drive on Disk 0). Right click on that drive letter and select "Mark Partition as Active", you may first have to convert the partition to a Primary partition before you can mark it as active. Close and reboot.
If that doesn't work, go into "My Computer", right-click each hard drive, select "Properties", switch to the "Tools" tab, click the "Check Now" button, check both options then click "Start"; if you selected the system partition it will require it to be rebooted and done outside of Windows. When you reboot you will see a message about "Disk checking will begin in 7 seconds", let it do this and don't skip it. It may take awhile and will boot back into Windows when it's done.
If that doesn't immediately work, and you have more hard drives than just C:, try placing the 3 boot files into other drives like D:, E:, F:, etc. Reboot each time to check if that was the one that fixed it, and when you find the correct one, mark it as active. (step-by-step)
Another tip shared by a user who was using the usb boot disk, is to copy the files boot.ini, ntldr, and ntdetect.com onto the hard drive, then try booting without using the usb, and go through all 10 options again to see which option works, because it was different for him than the option that worked when he had the usb inserted.
Get a Win9x floppy and boot with it and when you get your A: prompt type:
and make sure that the correct partition and hard drive are labeled "active" (usually the first hard drive with the first partition).
If you had a Win 9x install on this machine you may need to also run the command: sys c: (or d, e, or f for the installation).
Go into the recovery console by booting up with a Windows XP cd and go through the options till you get to the recovery console, you will need the admin password for this option (if you do not know it, just hit enter, that will work if it is blank). Then issue the command: fixboot
One of the visitors commented on the blog that if the hard drive is not marked as active, disconnect every hard drive but the boot drive, and get it to boot, then add the additional drive. His post is here BlogPostDisconnectingDriveToFixBoot .
Purchase a new hard drive, remove the old one, install the new one as master, install your OS, install the old one as slave (remember to change jumpers), copy all the data off the old hard drive, burn CD's or DVD's of the most important stuff, perform a low-level format of the old drive, make a partition on it and use it as backup storage drive or just another place to store your stuff. Go Back
If you want to do your own research on this topic, here are some links:
Windows XP Resource Kits: Initial Startup Phase
NTLDR is missing when you install or upgrade Windows XP over 95/98/ME
You receive an "NTLDR is missing" error message when you start your computer
How to Troubleshoot NTLDR is missing in W2k
How To Create a Boot Disk for an NTFS or FAT Partition in Windows
The computer does not start after you change the active partition by using the Disk Management tool
Error message when you start your computer with a non-system disk
Windows 2000 Disk Concepts and Troubleshooting
Windows XP Resource Kits: Replacing the Boot Sector
Windows XP Resource Kits: Using Recovery Console to recover from startup problems
How to create a bootable disk for an NTFS or FAT partition
How to recover from a corrupted registry that prevents Windows XP from starting
How to perform an in-place upgrade (reinstallation) of Windows XP
Cloning OS partition using Ghost 2003
NTLDR is Compressed - HP Support Solution
How to fix Windows XP in 8 commands
Recovery Console Bootcfg Command
Ultimate Boot CD
How to create a bootable floppy disk for an NTFS or FAT partition in Windows XP
How to obtain Windows XP Setup disks for a floppy boot installation
Written in 2002 by Miles Comer, then rewritten about every year as I learned more. You can link to this article without first contacting me.