How to Repair or Replace Boot.ini in Windows XP

Fix a corrupt or missing BOOT.INI file using the BOOTCFG tool

The boot.ini file is a hidden file that's used to identify in what folder, on which partition, and on which hard drive your Windows XP installation is located.

Boot.ini can sometimes become damaged, corrupted, or deleted, for any number of reasons. Since this INI file contains critical information about how your computer boots, problems with it are usually brought to your attention by an error message during the Windows startup process, like this one:

Invalid BOOT.INI file Booting from C:\Windows\

These steps apply only to Windows XP.

How to Repair or Replace Boot.ini in Windows XP

Repairing or replacing the boot.ini file usually takes less than 10 minutes, but the total time could be a lot longer if you need to locate a Windows XP CD.

  1. Enter the Windows XP Recovery Console. The Recovery Console is an advanced diagnostic mode of Windows XP, with special tools that will allow you to restore the boot.ini file.

  2. When you reach the command line (detailed in Step 6 in the link above), type the following command and then press Enter.

    bootcfg /rebuild
    
  3. The bootcfg utility will scan your hard drives for any Windows XP installations and then display the results.

    The BOOTCFG /rebuild command in Recovery Console in Windows XP
    Lifewire / Tim Fisher

    Follow the remaining steps to add your Windows XP installation to the boot.ini file.

  4. The first prompt asks, Add installation to boot list? (Yes/No/All). Type Y in response to this question and press Enter.

  5. The next prompt asks you to Enter Load Identifier. This is the name of the operating system. For example, type one of these and then press Enter:

    Windows XP Professional
    Windows XP Home Edition
    
  6. The final prompt asks you to Enter OS Load options. Enter this:

    /Fastdetect
    
  7. Take out the Windows XP CD, type exit, and then press Enter to restart your PC.

    Assuming that a missing or corrupt boot.ini file was your only issue, Windows XP should now start normally.

How to Rebuild Boot Configuration Data in Newer Versions of Windows

In newer versions of Windows, like Windows 10 and Windows 8, boot configuration data is stored in the BCD data file, not in a boot.ini file.

If you suspect that boot data is corrupt or missing in one of those operating systems, see How to Rebuild the BCD in Windows for a full tutorial.

Do I Have to Fix This Problem Myself?

No, you don't have to manually run the command above and follow those steps in order to repair the boot.ini file—you do have the option of letting a third-party program do it for you. However, it's really not that difficult if you follow the directions as they are. Plus, lots of the software that can fix the boot.ini file for you will cost you.

You shouldn't ever need to purchase a software program to fix errors with the boot.ini file. Even though there are probably dozens of applications that can do the fixing for you, when it comes down to the way those programs work, each of them will, at their core, be doing the exact same thing we described above. The only difference is that you can click a button or two to have the commands written out.

If you're curious, Fix Genius from Tenorshare is one such program. They have a free trial version that we haven't tried, but it's likely that not all the features will work unless you pay full price.

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