How to Fix NTLDR Is Missing Errors

This error is unique to Windows XP

There are a number of possible causes for NTLDR errors, including the most common "NTLDR is missing" issue.

The most common reason is when your computer is trying to boot from a hard drive or flash drive that isn't properly configured to be booted from. In other words, it's trying to boot from a non-bootable source. This also would apply to media on an optical drive or floppy drive that you're trying to boot from.

Other possible causes include corrupt and misconfigured files, hard drive and operating system upgrade issues, corrupt hard drive sectors, an outdated BIOS, and damaged or loose IDE cables.

This issue applies to the Windows XP operating system, including the Professional and Home Edition versions. Beginning in Windows Vista, the Windows OS utilizes BOOTMGR, not NTLDR. If you receive an "NTLDR is missing" error in Windows 11Windows 10, etc., especially early in the installation process, try starting the clean install process over again from scratch.

NTLDR Errors

NTLDR is missing error in Windows

There are a few ways the error may present itself, with this first one being the most common:

  • NTLDR is missing
  • Press any key to restart
  • NTLDR is missing
  • Press Ctrl Alt Del to restart
  • Boot: Couldn't find NTLDR
  • Please insert another disk

The error message displays very shortly after the computer is first started, immediately after the Power On Self Test (POST) is complete, when Windows has only initially begun to load.

How to Fix 'NTLDR Is Missing' Errors

Follow these steps in the order they're presented, which starts with the easier-to-complete tips:

  1. Restart your computer. The error could be a fluke.

  2. Check your floppy and optical (CD/DVD/BD) drives for media and disconnect any external drives. Often times, the "NTLDR is missing" error will appear if your computer is trying to boot to a non-bootable floppy disk, CD/DVD/BD, external hard drive, or flash drive.

    If you find that this is the cause of your problem and it's happening a lot, consider changing the boot order in BIOS so the hard drive with Windows installed is listed first.

  3. Check the hard drive and other drive settings in BIOS and ensure they're correct. The BIOS configuration tells the computer how to use a drive, so incorrect settings can cause problems, including these errors.

    There's usually an "Auto" setting for the hard drive and optical drive configurations in BIOS, which is usually a safe bet if you're not sure what to do.

  4. Restore the NTLDR and files from the Windows XP CD. Restoring these two important system files from the original XP CD may do the trick.

  5. Repair or replace the boot.ini file. This will prevent the NTLDR error if the cause of the problem is a boot.ini file that isn't configured properly for your Windows installation.

  6. Write a new partition boot sector to the Windows XP system partition. If the partition boot sector has become corrupt or isn't properly configured, you might receive the error.

  7. Repair the Windows XP master boot record. NTLDR error messages may also appear if the master boot record is corrupt.

  8. Reseat all internal data and power cables. The error messages could be caused by loose or malfunctioning IDE cables.

    Try replacing the IDE cable if you suspect it might be faulty.

  9. Update your motherboard's BIOS. Occasionally, an outdated BIOS version can cause the error.

  10. Perform a repair installation of Windows XP. This type of installation should replace any missing or corrupt files. Continue troubleshooting if this doesn't resolve the issue.

  11. Perform a clean installation of Windows XP. This type of installation will completely remove Windows from your computer and install it again from scratch.

    While this will almost certainly resolve any NTLDR errors, it's a time-consuming process due to the fact that all of your data must be backed up and then later restored. If you can't gain access to your files to back them up, understand that you will lose them all if you continue with a clean installation.

  12. Replace the hard drive and then perform a new installation of Windows. If all else has failed, including the clean installation from the last step, you're most likely facing a hardware issue with your hard drive.

    Windows XP is very outdated. To receive up-to-date security patches, it's recommended that you install a modern version of Windows.

Need More Help?

If you're not interested in fixing this problem yourself, see How Do I Get My Computer Fixed? for a full list of your support options, plus help with everything along the way like figuring out repair costs, getting your files off, choosing a repair service, and a lot more.

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