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“NTLDR is missing” Error When Attempting to Boot into Windows


When attempting to boot into a Windows 2000, XP, or 2003 system, Windows fails to load and displays the following error message:

NTLDR is missing
Press Ctrl-Alt-Del to restart

This may happen after making partition changes or after restoring the Windows partition.


The files necessary to boot Windows were not found on the partition booted. These files include ntldr, NTDETECT.COM, and boot.ini. This can be the result of the wrong partition being set active, file system corruption, or because the booting files do not exist on the partition.

The partition may have the wrong boot sector for the version of Windows being booted. For example, if a Windows 7 installation originally booted from an XP partition and is now attempting to boot from its own partition, which has XP's boot sector code.


Verify the correct drive is being booted

Some systems will alter the saved boot order when drives are connected or disconnected. Enter the BIOS and verify the boot order is correct. Alternatively, if available, use the BIOS Boot Menu to directly boot the desired drive. If using BootIt BM, verify the applicable boot menu entry is configured correctly.

Verify the correct partition is set active

This can be done using BootIt BM and looking at the MBR or by editing the boot menu entry for the Windows installation and making sure the correct partition is selected as the booting partition.

If BootIt BM is not being used and the Windows partition was restored to a primary partition, verify that the partition was restored as an active partition. This option can be found in Image for Windows, Image for Linux, and Image for DOS (Set Active).

If you restored to a logical partition and plan to boot that partition you must use a boot manager (such as BootIt BM) that supports it (the standard Windows boot manager won't boot Windows from a logical partition). Otherwise, make sure the boot partition is set active.

Update boot sector code

If you're booting a partition containing a Windows Vista (or later) installation and receive this error message the boot sector code needs to be updated. Please refer to the following KB article for instructions:
How to Rebuild the Boot Sector for Windows Vista and Windows 7/8.x/10

Restore missing boot files / Check file system

The booting files can be replaced or updated by using the Recovery Console from the Windows installation CD. The Recovery Console can also be used to check the file system for errors.


In the instructions below, C: is used as the drive letter assignment for the Windows booting partition and D: is used for the CD drive. Use the correct drive letters as they apply to your system.

  1. Insert the Windows installation CD into the CD/DVD drive and reboot the computer. Note: If the computer is not configured to boot the CD/DVD drive before the hard drive, you may need to first change the boot order in the BIOS or use the BIOS Boot Menu.

  2. When the message Press any key to boot from CD... appears, press a key to allow the disc to boot.

  3. On the Welcome to Setup screen, press R to repair.

  4. Windows 2000 only: Press C to start the Recovery Console.

  5. Select the number for the Windows installation to repair and enter the administrator password (just press Enter if no password is set).

  6. If you wish to check the file system, run chkdsk and specify the Windows booting partition:
    chkdsk  C:  /p

  7. To check if the booting files exist on the Windows booting partition, run the following command and check the listing for ntldr, NTDETECT.COM, and boot.ini:
    dir  C:\

  8. Run the following two commands to copy ntldr and NTDETECT.COM from the Windows installation CD to the Windows boot partition:
    copy  D:\i386\ntldr  C:\
    copy  D:\i386\NTDETECT.COM  C:\

  9. If the boot.ini file is missing you can create it by running bootcfg:
    bootcfg  /rebuild

    You will be prompted to select the Windows installation. Then enter the Load Identifier (description) and the Load Options (e.g. /fastdetect) you wish to use.

    If the bootcfg command is not available you will need to create the boot.ini file manually in the root folder of the Windows booting partition (C:\ in this example). This may involve creating the file on another system so it can be copied from a floppy disk. BootIt BM can also be used to create the file. An example for Windows 2000 is shown here:
    [boot loader] timeout=30
    [operating systems] multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINNT="Windows 2000 Server" /fastdetect

    Use the correct disk and partition numbers as well as the Windows folder name for your system. For more details, see: How Partition Numbers are Assigned in BOOT.INI

  10. When finished, remove the Windows CD and run the following command to exit the Recovery Console and restart the system:

    If the repairs were successful, Windows should boot normally.

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