November 8, 2004

NTLDR is missing

Today I had a computer giving me the error, “NTLDR is missing. Press any key to restart.” This was during the boot sequence, before the Windows logo had even come up. NTLDR is the main boot file for the Windows NT family, including XP. IO.SYS and MSDOS.SYS served the same function for the DOS/Win98 crowd. It the files are corrupted, your computer isn’t going to do anything but sit there with its fans spinning. So I looked up the Knowledge Base and found KB318728, “How to troubleshoot the “NTLDR Is Missing” error message.” It describes the process of booting from your Windows CD and going to the Recovery Console, and then copying the files NTLDR and NTDETECT.COM from the CD to your C: drive. After that, Windows should boot fine.

When I did it, the computer wouldn’t even boot from the CD. I went into the BIOS and made sure that the CD was positioned before the hard drive in the boot order, but it still wasn’t happening. “NTLDR is missing.” Why was I getting that error before booting from the CD? So I rearranged the boot order again, putting the CD first. This time I was able to boot from the CD. I logged into the Recovery Console and copied the files, and went to restart. And that’s when I happened to glance over at the computer and I noticed the floppy disk in the drive. D’oh! I popped it out, and everything worked fine from there on.

So this was the teaching point for me. Any time you have boot problems with your computer, check the floppy drive first. I had been so conditioned to think that “Invalid System Disk” was the only error you could get from a floppy being in the drive. Apparently not!

Filed under The Computer Vet Weblog

Comments (30)

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  1. Sean Harding says:

    Ha! I had that very thing happen to me a couple of months ago. Except it happened when I was working on a relative’s computer. I had removed a second hard drive and then tried to boot with only the primary drive in. No go. Ok, put second drive back in. Still no go. Proceed to panic (discreetly). After 20 minutes of trying every bios setting, cable and jumper I could think of (and trying very hard to not let anyone in the room know I think I broke it), I noticed the floppy.


    Posted November 8, 2004 @ 1:43 pm
  2. Nan Allen says:

    Thanks. Same think happened to me. Had a USB memory stick plugged in the portable. You saved me a heap of time!

    Posted December 1, 2004 @ 2:43 pm
  3. Steve says:

    Man, I’m like you. I had just finished loading all the stuff on the computer when this error started happening and I could not make it go away. Formatted the drive and had the same problem and I’m thinking I have some bad problems…until I read your post. Same thing here. Microsoft should go back to the previous error message.


    Posted December 3, 2004 @ 4:30 pm
  4. Mike says:

    Scott, you are a gem, I had left a floppy in the A drive, silly me! Thanks for your advice.

    Posted December 4, 2004 @ 4:49 pm
  5. brian draycott says:

    I hope you can help me!! I have the same problem at home as mentioned above excepting that I cant get into my BIOS – the computer keeps rebooting itself and goes so far as to getting into the Windows XP screen for approx 5 seconds and then reboots again. If I hit F2 it throws up a screen with options of where to boot from – this lists the drive where the OS is and all the other peripheral drives. I leave my computer on at night sometimes to let my anti virus programs do their thing – I think I may have left on the internet connection last night but I cant see that that should have a bearing on it can you?
    please help me

    Posted December 7, 2004 @ 4:16 am
  6. Matt Smith says:

    I get same NTLDR message after attempting to format the hard drive of my daughters computer. I plugged her hard drive into my computer and performed the format by getting into DOS and typing format e: After sometime it was complete and I put her hard drive back into her computer. I have a cd of both windows xp pro and windows 98. Neither will work even though I have been in to the BIOS and made the cd-rom #1 in the boot sequence. What am I doing wrong? Thank you for your help.

    Posted December 13, 2004 @ 2:12 pm
  7. Scott Schrantz says:

    With the Windows XP CD, during the boot sequence you need to look for the message that says, “Press any key to boot from CD”. That’s how you get into the XP setup. If you’re not seeing that message, there’s still something wrong with CD booting in your BIOS. If you don’t press anything, then it will try the hard drive next, and that’s when you get the NTLDR message.

    Posted December 13, 2004 @ 2:36 pm
  8. Matt Smith says:

    Thanks Scott.
    Looks like I’ll be able to let windows 98 boot from cd if I disable the hard drive in the BIOS. I’m hoping that I can get windows 98 up and running and then upgrade to XP via windows.

    Posted December 13, 2004 @ 3:38 pm
  9. Mitchy says:

    Help ! Help !

    That is taugh… a friend of mine baught an IBM Thinkpad 570E, this pc has windows xp pro installed on it the problem, it requires to active windows before going any further otherwise you log off, I tried to call Microsoft in order to activate it, the product key was invalid so windows xp could not be activated. Also I tried to crack it with several keys it didn’t work. I wish that I can reinstall windows since i got an other windows xp CD but the problem is that pc does have a CD rom drive, no even a floppy disk drive. But it does have a usb port, i tried to it with an external floppy drive so I can boot up from the floppy by changing the boot order from the bios, it does not see the floppy.
    Keeping thinking with that issue, i baught a disk enclosure, I took the hard drive out and put it into the enclosure and plug it into a usb of an other laptop, i can see all the data in the drive and i can even format the drive.
    I did swap the hard drive to the laptop, i was able to reinstall windows and activate it. When I put back the hard drive with the copy of windows and tried to boot the IBM thinkpad i got the following : NTLDR is missing press any key to restart.
    I was wondering if someone can help ?

    Posted February 16, 2005 @ 4:52 pm
  10. Jon says:

    Ha… I have the same error occuring on my 2nd PC. I had Windows XP on a 80gig Western Dig HDD thats not even 6mos old… For some reason i just clicked on hdd 1 day and it wa reading 34.4 gigs…. ok… no worries i formatted it thru my MAIN computer… still reading 34.4 thats fine, popped in the WD CD and recovered the HDD. 80gigs back in business… and now i get that “NTLDR is Missing” “CTR+ALT+DEL to restart” error. I;ve tried in BOTH towers i have with this HDD booting CD first with XP Home and XP Pro Disks to boot from… still a no go.. I put CD before HDD itll go to next screen and give me that error. A friend of mine said that it was a software issue in the first sector of the HDD and it was a P I T A for him to fix…. and he should have just thrown the drive away fr all the trouble it caused. I on the otherhand would NOT like to throw it away and actually fix it.. Any suggestions? Thanks


    Posted March 27, 2005 @ 2:52 pm
  11. paula says:

    Scott Schrantz you are wonderful. I came in this morning and my computer was saying ntldr missing??? I said to my self oh my gosh what a wonderful way to start the work week. I tried everything I could think of to get it up and running. I decided to go to another computer we have here and see what in the world ntldr is missing ment. I can across this sight and read your article. And can you believe it something was in the floppy drive. Thanks for saving my sanity.

    Posted April 4, 2005 @ 5:08 am
  12. Greg says:

    Hi, So far, everything talks about the floppy drive. I’m trying to set up a computer without the floppy drive. I know all about telling it to go to the cd-rom first, and the little lite comes on for a second. The HDD is an older 80 gig maxtor. I believe thats what the floppy disk comes for. Oh, well, I need to borrow the FD drive from another computer I guess……….unless someone has a magic wand. This is a new install attempting xp home, xp pro, and w 2000, and they all do the same thing. Real nice MB barton 3200 amd, so from what I read, it all sounds like the relationship between my new (used but formatted) 80 HD and the CD rom needing a kickstart with a floppy driver.

    Posted April 9, 2005 @ 10:21 am
  13. Pops1228 says:

    Greg: I had the same problem. New installof XP Home on a 40 gig Maxtor. Booted right to the CD and setup ran fine but when the computer tried to restart from the hard drive I got the NTDLR missing message…long story short you need to sys the hard drive when you format it before you install XP from the cd.
    Also note to all: I have had several times when computers would not start (no error message, just blank screen) because of disks in the cd drives…not many disks will cause this but ALWAYS chech BOTH the floppy drive AND the cd drives before doing anything else.

    Posted April 22, 2005 @ 1:03 pm
  14. brett schullobi says:

    I try to reinstall XP and can only get to 94% completion before the “NTLDR is missing” message.
    It includes the “CTrL, ALT, DELETE” instruction.
    Computer will not execute anything.

    Posted April 28, 2005 @ 7:28 am
  15. Joe says:

    Help! HELP!

    I have the NTLDR missing message too but something weird happend to me!

    I left a CD in the drive when I booted, by the time I got to the POST screen I remembered to take it out, after I did that the NTLDR msg came. I tried EVERYTHING, I changed the boot sequence to just the HDD, I put in the Windows XP cd and went into recovery to copy the files on the HDD but I can’t because it isn’t REAL DOS, so the Recovery command line is only allowed to stay within the C:\ directory. So I have 2 questions:
    How can I get into DOS?
    Did anyone else experience this?

    Posted June 14, 2005 @ 8:43 am
  16. jono says:

    I have the same problem. but when it goes to boot from cd so i can reinstall XP…it says push any key, however my keybourd strokes do not register. whats the go?

    Posted June 24, 2005 @ 4:30 am
  17. Robin says:

    My computer is running windows Xp pro and I am now getting the message that tells me to press F1 to continue, and then when I do, I get the dead end missing NTLDR and press control+alt+delete to restart and the whole viscious circle begins again.

    I was taking all my files off before selling my computer. i don’t think I deleted anything vital to windows because I just moved things like my photos and the files I had created,

    and then I defragmented,
    then i shut down the computer and it was finishing doing something that would not shut down, so I pressed to end the program anyway 🙁

    and then I had a problem.
    I found a CDRom in the drive, but removing it and rebooting did not change anything.
    I tried setting the bios to default.

    I don’t have the windows discs, and the fdd has not worked for a while, but I never used it so I did not worry about it.

    BUT I do have another computer running Windows WPpro on it, can I copy the relevant files to a CD Rom and the to the unco-operative computer that way?

    If so, what do I do?

    I can’t find anything resembling NTLDR on the other computer though, is it called something else…?

    Please can someone help me.
    Muchly appreciated. I am not wonderful with computers but I will have a go at whatever I can do myself since it is sooooexpensive to get anyone else to do it, and I have now realised that in the past people have charged me more than they should have for simple fixes

    older and wiser now….or maybe just older 🙁

    Posted September 15, 2005 @ 10:32 pm
  18. David Burns says:

    Hi, i have just installed norton system works 2005 premier and just rebooted the computer to finish off the installation and it came up saying NTLDR is missing Press and key to reboot.
    I have followed many teadous trouble shooting websites, which have all told me the same thing, to go in to the recovery console, and copy the ntldr and the and i did this and it still wont boot, luckily i have a wireless netowork so i am on a laptop so i can access the computer and follow any trouble shooting, i took my ipod out so its got nothing to do with that, and there is nothing in the DVD-RW or the DVD-RAM drive or the floppy except the windows xp home edition cd,
    i am only 14 and i really need help as i have chronic arthitis and this is the only way of me doing any work,
    Please Please Please Help me
    David Burns

    Posted October 19, 2005 @ 7:36 pm
  19. Quentin says:

    I have a problem with this NTDLR missing problem also, it only happens when my 2nd hard drive is plugged in and running, it seems that its trying to boot up off my 2nd hard drive, but I mainly store all of my back up files on the 2nd hard drive, it boots up fine without the 2nd hard drive in, any ideas thanks!

    Posted October 20, 2005 @ 11:30 pm
  20. Linda Burns says:

    You can set up bios to boot from the floppy then cd drives and then put the original hardrive first and then put the one with all the back up files to boot last in the boot configuaration, also check that that the harddrive dosent have any virus infections and make sure its booting from the operating system on the 1st harddrive

    Posted October 23, 2005 @ 4:07 am
  21. Luke says:

    I have an issue with the ntldr missing myself, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the floppy drive. I just got a brand new HD, and when I try to start up with my XP Home CD, it just goes “ntldr missing” before doing anything (i.e. doesn’t even get as far as setup).

    My question is, how am I supposed to copy the ntldr files onto my HD if I can’t even get a command prompt onscreen?

    Posted December 3, 2005 @ 12:44 pm
  22. Anonymous says:

    I put my memory stick into the computer to save some school work so i went into save then ckicked on my computer and then clicked on removable disk (E) drive(which is where i save all my work i put on my memory stick) and then i said that the E drive was invalid so i was unable to save my work which i am very unhappy about.
    PLEASE send me instructions to fix my problem!!!!!

    Posted March 11, 2006 @ 5:46 pm
  23. Bob says:

    I had windows XP home service pack 1 installed on my computer and went to upgrade to xp pro service pack 1 did that but it wouldnt read the disk properly so i went to restart the comp to go backj into windows and copy the installation files onto my hard drive to see wether that would work but it said 1 of the windows files was corrupted so i went to boot of cd to re-install the same copy of windows on to the computer but it wouldnt boot from cd so i took out the hd put it in the other computer i have nd formated it after i did that i could boot it on that computer and isntall xp onto it then i reformated and put it bak in my computer and i got the error message NTLDR is missing press alt+Ctrl+del to restart i did that changed the boot devices to cd then hd still i got that error message and it wouldnt boot of cd i am going to try formating again. my computer is just over a month old and i dont want to have to take it bak. plz help thnx

    Posted March 11, 2006 @ 11:03 pm
  24. Azeem says:


    i’m not able to boot my laptop it showing me error ntldr missing press ctr=alt=del. how to come this error.
    this hdd how to connect to the normal pc it won’t detect pls guid me.

    Posted May 11, 2006 @ 10:46 pm
  25. Terrie Heath says:

    My computer is not working i turned it on and it came up with the message ntldr is missing press ctrl + alt+ del to restart and i did that and it still wont work. help

    Posted August 9, 2006 @ 9:03 am
  26. MaRiiA says:

    Hello. My computer broke down recently. I don’t know what to do and I need real help fast. So whatever happened put a new volume in my computer and now because of the new volume nothing worked. So I put the XP CD in and rebooted my computer. Then I took the CD out after setting the BIOS and then the screen came where NTLDR is missing. PLEASE HELP ME. If anyone knows what to do please IM me on my AIM which is MzZ CuTiiE 07. Or you can Email me at THANK UU

    Posted April 20, 2007 @ 11:50 pm
  27. rachel says:

    omg im having the same problem but i have a laptop and my cd drive doesn’t work so i cant put a disk inside there to reboot it someone help me

    Posted July 9, 2007 @ 7:05 pm
  28. billy says:

    i had same problem, i went into bios changed boot order to cd first, and i had already created a recovery disk i just selected the option to return to factory settings within recovery cd leaving windows installed and it sorted the problem out. u could maybe also try using a boot disk. The only otherway would be to completely format your pc and reinstall windows deleting your old partition and reinstalling onto a new partitiion, or alternativel get a new hard drive perhaps. Or just take it to a pc shop and get them to fix it. thats the limit of my knowledge.

    Posted January 27, 2008 @ 12:52 pm
  29. gopster says:

    Goto that website and download that file, create a diskette and u can startup your PC, once started up just replace files NTDETECT.CO,NTLDR & BOOT.INI in C: Drive, your good to go….

    Posted April 8, 2008 @ 4:23 pm
  30. Dickens Charles says:

    Please I need your help, my portable computer is not booting. when I start it, it indicates that NTLDR is missing and tells me to press Ctrl + Alt+Del to restart but still there is no change. Please assist me to fix this problem!

    Posted May 29, 2009 @ 11:09 am

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