Repairing the WinXP Booting Error

Most of us have seen it at one time or another; perhaps on our own PC, the PC of a loved one, or perhaps a PC at your place of employment. The system spends weeks or months operating in a smooth fashion, taking you to the far reaches of the wide, wibbly web, and after one particularly late evening of browsing and gaming, you shut your PC off and go to bed. Millions of people across the globe do just this every night, but a few of us have turned our PCs on the next day not to the standard Windows XP loading screen, but instead this dreaded error:

Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt:


You can attempt to repair this file by starting Windows Setup
using the original Setup CD-ROM.
Select ‘R’ at the first screen to start repair.

You try safe mode, to no avail. You’re particularly savvy and try issuing the FIXBOOT and FIXMBR commands in the Windows recovery console, but after each reboot, you’re merely greeted with the same obnoxious and terrifying blue screen of death that’s preventing you from accessing your precious data.

Perhaps you’ve also seen these error screens:

Windows NT could not start because the below file is missing or corrupt:


Windows NT could not start because the below file is missing or corrupt:


NTLDR is Missing
Press any key to restart

Invalid boot.ini
Press any key to restart


Don’t worry The process is simple: Get to the Windows Recovery Console for your particular Windows installation, navigate to the root letter of your installation (C: in most cases), issue eight commands, and reboot. The cornerstone of this process is a command called “BOOTCFG /Rebuild” which is a complete diagnostic of the operating system loaded into the recovery console; the purpose of the command is to remove/replace/repair any system files that were preventing the operating system from loading correctly. Amongst the files its fixes are:

  • Windows Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL)
  • Corrupt registry hives (\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\CONFIG\xxxxxx)
  • Invalid BOOT.INI files
  • A corrupt NTOSKRNL.EXE
  • A missing NT Loader (NTLDR)

Let us now begin with a step-by-step instruction for correcting these issues.

  • Insert your Windows XP CD into your CD and assure that your CD-ROM drive is capable of booting the CD. Configuring your computer to boot from CD is outside of the scope of this document, but if you are having trouble, consult Google for assistance.
  • Once you have booted from CD, do not select the option that states: “Press F2 to initiate the Automated System Recovery (ASR) tool.” You’re going to proceed until you see the screen, at which point you will press the “R” key to enter the recovery console.
  • After you have selected the appropriate option from step two, you will be prompted to select a valid Windows installation (Typically number “1”). Select the installation number, (As mentioned, “1” in most cases), and hit enter. If there is an administrator password for the administrator account, enter it and hit enter. You will be greeted with the screen, which indicates a recovery console at the ready.


  • Now there are eight commands you must enter in sequence to repair any of the issues we noted in the beginning of this post. Let’s introduce them here, & how to enter them is discussed in the following steps:
    • C: CD ..
    • C: ATTRIB –H C:\boot.ini
    • C:ATTRIB –S C:\boot.ini
    • C:ATRIB –R C:\boot.ini
    • C: del boot.ini
    • C: BOOTCFG /Rebuild
    • C: CHKDSK /R /F
    • C: FIXBOOT
  • To “Go up a directory” in computing is to revert back to the directory above the current folder you’re operating in. If, for example, I’m in the C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32 directory, and I want to get at a file in the WINDOWS directory, I would merely type CD .. and I would be taken out of the SYSTEM32 folder and up one level to WINDOWS. We’re going to do the same thing here from the WINDOWS folder to get to the basic root of C:
  • Now that we are at C: we can begin the process of repairing the operating system

and that begins with modifying the attributes of the BOOT.INI file. Briefly, BOOT.INI controls what operating systems the Windows boot process can see, how to load them, and where they’re located on your disk. We’re going to make sure the file is no longer hidden from our prying eyes, remove the flag that sets it as an undeletable system file, and remove the flag that sets it as a file we can only read, but not write to. To do this, we will issue three commands in this step:


to remove the Hidden, System and Read Only flags.

  • Now that we’ve modified the attributes for the BOOT.INI file, it’s up for deletion.

the syntax for it is simple: { DEL | FILE NAME }, e.g., C:DEL BOOT.INI deletes the BOOT.INI file.

  • Now for the most important step of our process, the BOOTCFG /REBUILD

command which searches for pre-existing installations of Windows XP and rebuilds sundry essential components of the Windows operating system, recompiles the BOOT.INI file and corrects a litany of common Windows errors. It is very important that you do one or both of the following two things:

First, every Windows XP owner must use /FASTDETECT as an OS Load Option when the rebuild process is finalizing. Secondly, if you are the owner of a CPU featuring Intel’s XD or AMD’s NX buffer overflow protection, you must also use /NOEXECUTE=OPTIN as an OS Load Option. I will demonstrate both commands for the purpose of this guide, but do not set NOEXECUTE as a load option if you do not own one of these CPUs. For the “Enter Load Identifier” portion of this command, you should enter the name of the operating system you have installed. If, for example, you are using Windows XP Home, you could type “Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition” for the identifier. This gives the process some authenticity, if you’re keen on being a perfectionist.

  • This step verifies the integrity of the hard drive containing the Windows XP

installation. While this step is not an essential function in our process, it’s still good to be sure that the drive is physically capable of running windows, in that it contains no bad sectors or other corruptions that might be the culprit. Just type CHKDSK /R /F at the C:> prompt. Let it proceed; it could take in excess of 30 minutes on slower computers, when this is finished move on to the seventh and final step.

  • The last step required is when you are at the C:> prompt,

simply type FIXBOOT. This writes a new boot sector to the hard drive and cleans up all the loose ends we created by rebuilding the BOOT.INI file and the system files. When the Windows Recovery Console asks you if you are “Sure you want to write a new bootsector to the partition C: ?” just hit “Y,” then enter to confirm your decision.


It’s time to reboot your PC by typing EXIT in the Windows Recovery Console and confirming the command with a stroke of the enter key. With any luck, your PC will boot successfully into Windows XP as if your various DLL, Hive, EXE and NTLDR errors never existed.You’ve just saved yourself from many hours of work, frustration, potential data loss and shelling out your hard-earned greenbacks at a brick’n’mortar operation.


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