Deal with "NTLDR Is Corrupt" messages

How to handle this error.

NTLDR, or NT Loader, is the bootstrapper program that loads the core Windows NT and Windows 2000 components into memory. If you try to boot NT/2K and get a notice that "NTLDR is corrupt," there may be several disparate reasons for this message.

  1. The System hive is too fragmented.

    The System hive contains a copy of the entire System branch of the Registry, and is usually one of the biggest components to be loaded into memory during boot. Since it's modified often, it can get fragmented, and if it's too fragmented it won't load correctly.

    Possible solutions:

    1. Manually defragment the hive.

      This isn't as hard as it sounds. Boot into the Recovery Console and type the following commands:

      CD \<SystemRoot>\SYSTEM32\CONFIG
      RENAME SYSTEM SYSTEM.BAK
      COPY SYSTEM.BAK SYSTEM
      DEL SYSTEM.BAK
      EXIT

      This copies the SYSTEM hive into a new, probably far less fragmented file. Note that <SystemRoot> should be your system directory.

    2. Obtain Service Pack 2 for Windows 2000.

      This patches NTLDR to be at least the revision dated 7/18/2000.

  2. You're using a PXE-enabled client.

    PXE Server is a third-party program from Phoenix Technologies that allows for automated hard-drive imaging. Some PXE clients may throw a "NTLDR is corrupt" error if the customized NTLDR file used by PXE has been modified. You'll need to replace the NTLDR on the client with the PXE edition of NTDLR -- it's usually called <SystemRoot>\System32\RemInst\Oschoice.exe on the PXE server. You'll need to rename it to NTLDR on the target machine. For complete details, see MS KnowledgeBase article Q262243.

  3. The copy of NTLDR is missing or destroyed.

    This is the most obvious reason. The easiest way to replace it is to simply copy it in from a machine of the same Service Pack level, or to expand NTLDR._ from the source installation media.


Serdar Yegulalp is the editor of the Windows 2000 Power Users Newsletter.


This was first published in June 2002

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