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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Ultimate Boot CD and the Case of Missing NTLDR

Trying to find a purpose to live beyond the ordinary, I have resolved to help my relatives with PC problems. Now this is a very boring job when you know that "just formatting the hard disk" or "buying more expensive equipment" will solve the problem; I try not to suggest such extreme measures as this just eases your job and sheds cloak of gloom over the face of the person facing the problem.

By the way, I am not into PC troubleshooting as my day job (and I am not much knowledgeable with OS problems either). However, I do learn a little from time to time.

So, I got a call for help where somebody close was getting an "NTLDR is missing" error on booting his Windows XP machine. Fortunately, I had downloaded (and used) Ultimate Boot CD some time earlier. I knew this would be indispensable.

When you boot with UBCD, it provides you with lots and lots of tools. Knowing the right tool for the job takes some time.

A quick search on the Internet revealed that the three files required in the first partition for booting up a Windows XP machine include
  • boot.ini

  • ntdetect.com

  • ntldr
I used Volkov Commander (included with the CD) and enabled NTFS support; I found out that all these files were missing from the Win XP paritition. A rather peculiar thing with UBCD is that it messed up with the drive letters (it could be due to the fact that some partitions were FAT 32 and some others with NTFS). Moreover, enabling NTFS support just makes NTFS partitions readable (more on that below).

With some effort, I found out "Avira NTFS4DOS Personal" in UBCD allows you to write to NTFS. I put in a Windows XP setup CD and copied ntdetect.com and ntldr from i386 folder of the setup CD to the root of the NTFS partition. I had to manually create boot.ini (contents copied below):

[boot loader]
timeout=30
default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Professional" /fastdetect /noexecute=optin


And it worked! Thanks to UBCD!

Note to self: considering that almost everyone in Pakistan uses Windows as their OS, I should give UBCD for Windows a try.