Technology Advice by Ryan Taylor Adams

How to Resolve the “NTLDR is Missing” Error on Windows Start-up

May 24th, 2008 · 15 Comments · Printer Friendly Version


While I make an effort to update older posts to keep them relevant and technically accurate, the rapidly changing nature of the tech world makes it possible that the content of this post may no longer be relevant, current, or even accurate. Additionally, because of this post's age, adding new comments has been disabled. If you would like to contribute new information to this post, or have questions pertaining to this post, please use the Contact Form.

If the NTLDR becomes damaged, you may get an error message informing you that “NTLDR is missing” when you start your computer. After this error message, you will be prompted to restart your computer at which the same error will be displayed again. This effectively prevents you from being able to access Windows at all. In most cases, you will not even be able to boot into safe mode. Here are some steps you can take to fix the problem:

  1. Insert the Windows XP installation CD into your computers CD-ROM drive and restart.
  2. You will be prompted to “Press any key to boot from CD…”. Press a key.
  3. Once loaded, the Windows XP setup menu will give you several options. Press the “R” key to repair Windows.
  4. When prompted, selected your Windows installation. In most cases this is “1”. Press enter.
  5. You will then be prompted for your administrator password, enter that password. If you don’t have a password set, just press enter. 
  6. Type the following commands, pressing enter after each line. Replace “e:\” with the letter of your CD-ROM drive.
    copy e:\i386\ntldr c:\
    copy e:\i386\ntdetect.com c:\
    bootcfg /rebuild
  7. After entering that last line and pressing enter, you will be walked through the process of rebuilding the boot file. Most of the prompts should be self explanatory, but here are a few tips:
    • The first prompt should ask you to confirm the operating system that was automatically detected. Make sure the detected OS is the operating system you have installed and then type “y” and press enter.
    • You will also be prompted for a “load identifier”. This is the user friendly name that is displayed when selecting advanced startup options. You can type anything you want here, but it is best to type the full name of the operating system (such as “Windows XP Home Edition).
  8. Eject the CD from your computer. Type “exit” and press enter. Your computer will restart, and this time it should load without displaying an error.

If you found this post helpful, please consider making a donation to help cover the costs of this site:

15 responses so far ↓

  • 1 onGlue // Jul 12, 2008 at 3:21 PM

    I’m getting the NTLDR.then my computer shuts own cant even get cd in to fix.any ideas..thanks alot Jeff

  • 2 Ryan Adams // Jul 12, 2008 at 3:38 PM

    @onGlue: If your only problem is getting the CD in, you should be able to open the CD drive and insert the CD immediately after powering your computer on and before you get the error.

  • 3 Jonathan Esker // Sep 10, 2008 at 7:06 PM

    The above user needs to know how to get into their PCs bios and change the Boot Order (Hard Drive, CD-Rom, Removable etc) to load to their CD tray and press any key to Repair using the Recovery Console.

    The user needs to hit or repeatedly hit the F1 or F10 or Delete key on their keyboard right when the computer starts, it should say Entering Setup, then usually like 4 screens over, you will need to find something that says Boot Device Order or similar sounding, and change the Primary Boot Device to CD-Rom. Then hit F10 to Save this setting, restart, and your PC should say Press any key to boot to CD-Rom…(if you did it correctly).

  • 4 Ryan Adams // Sep 10, 2008 at 7:22 PM

    @Jonathan Esker: Excellent point. If that is your problem onGlue, you’ll need to do as Jonathan describes.

  • 5 dodger4 // Oct 17, 2008 at 12:48 PM

    I have just recovered a computer from this error (ntldr missing) and wanted to thank you lots for your advice and help with getting this issue resolved.

    Many thanks

  • 6 adedayoor // Oct 30, 2008 at 11:05 PM

    Thanks it really works for me.I was thinking of returning my notebook for a replacement since I still have wrranty on it,but all my valuable data could have been lost.

  • 7 Sjarrel // Nov 2, 2008 at 12:49 PM

    Hi there,

    What if the cd is not accessed before the error? I’ve changed the boot up sequence to my dvd-rom first (the drive is properly recognized, it’s a sata dvd-rom drive). I enter the xp cd-rom, and after the initial boot-screen (where all the devices are listed), I immediately get the error. So no message “Press any key to boot to CD-Rom…”. Any thoughts???

  • 8 Ryan Adams // Nov 2, 2008 at 6:32 PM

    @Sjarrel: Please triple check your computer is in fact booting from the CD-ROM. This error should only appear if your computer attempts to boot from the hard drive first. If you still can’t get it to work, you will need to connect your computer’s hard drive to another computer (as an internal slave drive or using a USB adapter). Then manually copy over the ntldr and ntdetect.com files.

  • 9 Aseus // Dec 10, 2008 at 6:02 AM

    Thanks a lot you saved me man its works wonder

  • 10 marcos // Dec 10, 2008 at 7:10 PM

    While trying to copy I get an ‘access denied’ error. Moreover, the rebuilding is also unsuccessful.

    Any ideas?

    I’m thinking of installing Linux (on another partition). Just so to have GRUB managing the boot process.

    Thank you.

  • 11 Ryan Adams // Dec 10, 2008 at 8:10 PM

    @marcos: It sounds like it is having a problem writing to your drive. You might try connecting your hard drive to another PC and copying the files from with-in Windows on that computer.

    While the GRUB boot loader is fine, there is only about a 50% chance using it will resolve your problem.

  • 12 dodger4 // Dec 10, 2008 at 8:47 PM

    It would be unusual, but maybe marcos does not have ownership of the drive (C:), or the CD drive. Is he logging in as “administrator” rather than a ‘user with admin privileges’?

    Also, does petri’s utility for resetting the admin password have an option to change ownership of the drive? I haven’t been there for a while…

    HINT!! Leave it blank for trouble-free reboot… :-) and reset it later.

    I wouldn’t recommend using grub; most windows places say to use its bot loader rather than another for dual-boot. lilo and grub rewrite the mbr, often making windows unbootable…ooops…

  • 13 Ryan Adams // Dec 10, 2008 at 10:04 PM

    @dodger4: Since he is in the recovery console, he should have complete access to the drives. The only exception would be if there was some third-party disk encryption. In that case though, the recovery console would fail to load.

    There is no function to change ownerships with the utility. And that makes sense. The recovery console logs in as “Administrator” which has full control of everything. You can’t log into the recovery console as any other user.

  • 14 marcos // Dec 11, 2008 at 5:35 AM

    Some progress (or not).

    For some reason the label order was screwed. I have a secondary Sata driver (with media files) and a primary Ide driver (for OSs). I couldn’t copy the files because of this. I detached the Sata driver and deleted the Vista partition. As so, XP partition returned to be C:

    Then I could do all the 7 steps.

    The thing is, after rebooting, this message shows up: “reboot and select proper boot device or insert boot media in select boot device and press a key”.

    Any suggestions? Thanks.

  • 15 Ryan Adams // Dec 11, 2008 at 7:00 AM

    @marcos: Confirm your BIOS is in-fact set to boot from the IDE hard drive first. If that doesn’t help, I would recommend using the recovery console to rerun the fixboot and fixmbr commands in addition to doing a “chkdks c: /r”. That error message indicates your computer is either trying to boot from some other media, or your hard drive is corrupt/not bootable.

  • 16 Mike Johnson // Dec 16, 2008 at 7:34 PM

    In my case, I just had to re-seat the IDE cable between my drive and motherboard to make sure it had a good connection. Presto, problem solved!

  • 17 Danoxyde // Dec 24, 2008 at 9:55 PM

    thanks…it’s work…

  • 18 Ricky // Jan 20, 2009 at 5:29 PM

    When I do the last line, it doesn’t prompt me to do anything. It just gives me a bunch of commands. What should I do?

  • 19 Ryan Adams // Jan 20, 2009 at 7:10 PM

    @Ricky: Which line are you referring to? What commands does it give you?

  • 20 sheryll // Jan 31, 2009 at 11:44 PM

    thanks for this post.. a big help!! :)

  • 21 Ismael Mamadou // Feb 3, 2009 at 12:49 PM

    Thank you very much for your help, my computer is back!!!

  • 22 Joe // Mar 26, 2009 at 9:30 PM

    Can a missing NTLDR problem be the result of using a XP Pro Volume License that has been blocked by Microsoft? I’m wondering if Microsoft is so big brother like that they will intentionally create this error on a pc using a Volume License that no longer passes their WGA process.

  • 23 Ryan Adams // Mar 26, 2009 at 9:47 PM

    @Joe: No… But you still should not be stealing software.