NTLDR is missing Press any key to restart NTLDR is missing, press Ctrl+Alt+Del to restart

NTLDR is missing,
press any key to restart

What happened?

When your computer starts, the BIOS attempts to find the primary hard drive's active partition to read the first sector for the MBR (Master Boot Record), it uses that info to load the rest of the OS.  For Windows NT4/2k/XP the NTLDR (New Technology Loader) takes it from there.  If you get the "NTLDR is missing, press any key to restart" what's most likely going on is the BIOS either didn't look for the right drive, didn't find the right partition, it wasn't active, didn't find the MBR, or the MBR didn't list NTLDR in the right place, or the location of NTLDR changed.

If possible, try to change back whatever hardware or software change you just made (this could be as simple as leaving a floppy disk in the drive or you need to recheck the cables). (What if I made new changes that I want to keep?).

Make a NTLDR boot floppy / recordable cd / usb drive to get back into Windows.

The quick test to make sure your OS installation is still good is to create an MBR and NTLDR on a floppy disk and check your partitions, this disk will check many of the partitions for a working windows installation.  Here are the instructions to do this:

  1. Get a blank floppy (whatever is on it will be erased), and put it into a PC running Microsoft Windows (any version since 95) (If using cd or usb: What if the computer doesn't have a floppy drive?) (What if my backup system is Mac / Linux or another alt OS?).
  2. Download fixntldr.exe (you must left click and choose Save, right clicking and choosing Save As... doesn't work with my hosting company) onto a working computer (What if I don't want to download a file from a website I don't trust?).
  3. Run the fixntldr.exe file by double clicking it.  Click OK to overwrite the blank floppy disc in the working computer, you should see some screens about writing a new floppy disk.
  4. Do you remember if the folder you had your Windows installation in was named "Windows"? If you can't remember just keep going (What if it was not named Windows but WINNT like in NT4 or 2000?) .
  5. Put the new floppy you have just created into the computer that gets the NTLDR is missing error message, turn the broken computer off.

Using the boot disk in the computer with the "NTLDR is missing" error.

Start back up the broken computer with the floppy in the floppy drive.  Once your computer gets past the BIOS screen your computer should try to access the floppy drive and you should see a black screen with white letters that says: (What if I don't see this screen?).

(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 errors:

1. Windows could not start because file "<Windows Root>\system32\hal.dll was missing or corrupt

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.

3. I/O Error accessing boot sector file multi(0)disk(0)fdisk(0)\BOOTSECT.DOS

4. Immediate reboot

If you get the immediate reboot or some other weird error, 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.

One of the choices should eventually boot you back into Windows.  (If you go all the way to option 10 and still get errors on startup, try changing boot.ini to windows.ini, then winnt.ini to boot.ini, and run through all 10 possibilities again. (What if none of the options worked?) .

Use windows to fix the boot files on the hard drive.

Once you get back into windows, (backup your important documents first) try to change back whatever you were last doing and boot normally, if that doesn't work, go to the root of your C:\ drive (explained) and rename boot.ini to boot.ini.bak, ntldr to ntldr.bak, and ntdetect.com to ntdetect.com.bak, then copy the files that are on your floppy disk to the root of your C:\ drive (if you used the CD-ROM, download the fixntldr.zip file and use the boot files from there) so that the files are on the root, like C:\ntldr C:\ntdetect.com C:\boot.ini.  If it prompts you to overwrite a file, press "Yes".  After they have been copied over, be sure to remove the "Read-Only" attribute from the properties of the files. (Right click on a file, choose properties, and uncheck the Read-Only box). Take the floppy out and reboot the computer (you should see the "1st Try This" menu, make the same selection you did before.

If you get back into Windows again, you can change that "1st Try This" menu by going into Start > Control Panel > System > Advanced tab > Startup and Recovery section, Settings button > System Startup; then change the "Default Operating System:" to the selection that worked for you, and change the box that says "Time to display list of operating systems" to however many seconds you want (usually 1 second). Click OK twice. (What if the bootdisk worked, but I can't get into Windows without it?) . (What if I want to do further research?) .

What if I made new changes that I want to keep?

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:

http://www.techspot.com/vb/topic8356.html

Come back if you still get the error after that. Go back

What if the computer doesn't have a floppy drive?

If you don't have a floppy drive or don't have a floppy disk, instead burn the FIXNTLDR ISO image for Windows XP or FIXNTLDR ISO image for Windows NT4 and Windows 2000; you will have to unzip the file then burn the iso image with a CD burning software, try download.com for free iso burning cd software: MagicISO (explained).

For a USB drive, download ntldrusb.zip and expand it onto your desktop, then follow these instructions:
Insert USB drive;
Double-click HPUSBFW.EXE in this directory;
Check "Create a DOS startup disk" and "using DOS system files located at" then press the grey button with the "...";
A box will come up asking you which folder to select, point it to the "dos system files" folder;
Press OK; Press Start; Press Yes; Let it run for just a few minutes till a new box comes up; Press OK; Press Close;
Open the "putonusb" folder, copy all the files, paste them onto the usb stick (just in the root of the drive, like E:\);
Eject the USB Stick; Remove it from your computer;
Place it into the computer with the "NTLDR is missing" issue, reboot it.
You will see the Windows 98 screen pop up for a second, then you will see a black screen with white letters prompting you to "replace boot sector of the drive C: (y/n)", press the y key;
It will go to a C:\ prompt, reboot the computer by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del;
Now you should be able to select the different options 1-10; Turn off the broken computer and click the "Go Back" link to get back in the order of what to do.

Note: The "using DOS system files" comes from a Windows 98 disc at http://bootdisk.com/, the HP USB Format utility from HP, and the bootpart utility from http://www.winimage.com/bootpart.htm.

From here on out, when I say "insert the floppy", I mean "insert the floppy or CD or USB drive". Go back

What if I don't want to download a file from a website I don't trust?

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:

[Boot Loader]
timeout=30
Default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\Windows

[Operating Systems]
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 deuzieme" /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. Go Back

What if my backup system is Linux or another alt OS?

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 the fixntldrimg.zip or fixntldrimg.rar file to make the floppy (you will need to expand it). 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=fixntldr.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 milescomer@gmail.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 pay 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.

What if it was not named Windows but WINNT like in NT4 or 2000?

If it was named "Winnt" (which C:\Winnt was the default for WinNT4 and Windows 2000) then rename the boot.ini file to windows.ini and change winnt.ini to boot.ini .  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

What if I don't see this screen?

If you do not see the screen come up with the different selections and immediately goes back to the "NTLDR is missing, press any key to restart" error, then you will need to change the "boot order" in your systems BIOS to first select the Floppy Drive (sometimes called "Removable Media Drive") before it tries to boot to the Hard Disk (sometimes called "Fixed Disk" drive).

To get to the BIOS, when the computer first starts try pressing the CTRL or ESC or END or DELETE or F1-12 keys to get it to stop trying to load windows and instead go to a screen that allows you to make configuration changes to your machine.  Once there, try looking for a "Boot Order" screen that will list your floppy, cd-rom, and hard drives with a number, (typically 1-3), look for instructions on the screen on how to make changes, and move your floppy to 1 and CD-ROM to 2, find a way to exit and be sure to save your changes. Go Back

What if none of the options worked?

If using the boot disk to create a new MBR and NTLDR did not help, or copying the files to the root of the C:\ drive and you remove the disk and still get the message when you boot up, your options for a solution diverge into different areas.  Then we know that the programs are fine, and the 3 startup files are fine, but perhaps the MBR is incorrect.  Correcting the MBR takes a few different directions, choose any of the following sections:

Installation CD 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:
http://www.techspot.com/vb/topic8356.html

Recovery Console Option

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:

http://www.5starsupport.com/faq/booting.htm#7-9

Then try using the floppy again. Go Back.

Hardware Problems

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, here's a handy thread to check for those problems:
http://www.techspot.com/vb/showthread.php?s=&threadid=7602

Still nothing?

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):
http://www.computerhope.com/issues/ch000465.htm

Here's another good one:
http://www.short-media.com/printcontent.php?print=r&id=313

What if the bootdisk worked, but I can't get into Windows without it?

Stop - Backup your important files - Then proceed

Inside Windows Option

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".  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.

Win9x Boot Disk Option

Get a Win9x floppy and boot with it and when you get your A:\ prompt type:
fdisk
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).

Recovery Console Option

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

New Hard Drive Option

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. If you are unable to see the drive as slave, you will likely need to perform data recovery, in which case you have two options, do it yourself with 200 ways to revive a hard drive, or a professional with Lazarus Data Recovery. Go Back

What if I want to do further research?

If you want to do your own research on this topic, here are links to relevant Microsoft KB articles:
Windows XP Resource Kits: Initial Startup Phasee
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

Or try a search on Google for NTLDR Google

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