NTLDR Missing

Got a ticket today to look at a Dell Precision 360 workstation. Upon arriving, I noticed the following error message “NTLDR is missing”. After a big gulp, I loaded my Windows XP CD to attempt a “fixboot” and “fixmbr”. Unfortunately, this particular computer was setup with IDE RAID-0 and I had no idea where the driver disk for it was. Using BartPE, I booted the PC. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw all of the user’s files there. However, boot.ini, ntdetect.com and ntldr were missing from C:. Using BartPE, I copied these files from my workstation (also running Windows XP) to his workstation. Upon reboot, I was greeted with this message:

system32hal.dll is missing or corrupt reinstall file

I booted with BartPE again and saw that the file was indeed there. I looked at another Dell Precision workstation and noticed this line in the boot.ini:

default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)WINDOWS

Dells usually have a hidden diagnostic partition which can throw a tech off. Upon changing the partition from 1 to 2, the system booted. It booted and then it rebooted ad infinitum. I then boot it into safe mode and it gave me an option to do a system restore. I happily agreed to this prompt and restored it from a week ago. System booted right up!

This taught me two lessons: always treat each problem as unique. A missing NTLDR usually spells hard drive failure, but in this case it appears there was nothing wrong with the hard drive. Finally, system restore really does work! I have a habit of turning this off on each workstation I visit (due to it wasting resources), but it saved my bacon today. I am never turning off system restore again!

– Soli Deo Gloria

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