Get IT Done: Troubleshoot Windows NT boot problems

Overcome boot problems in Windows NT with these tips

There are many problems that can occur during the Windows NT 4.0 boot process. Faulty hardware, incorrectly installed applications, bad system settings, corrupt system files, and other malfunctions can wreak havoc on an NT machine. The possible problems are virtually endless, as are the potential solutions. Solving boot problems can be as easy as removing a non-bootable floppy disk or as complicated as reformatting the hard drive.

However, there are several common boot-related problems with specific fixes. This article addresses a few of these problems and provides fixes for each. While this information may not solve all your boot problems, it will get you well on your way to troubleshooting the Windows NT boot process.

Getting started
Before troubleshooting a Windows NT boot problem, I suggest having several tools at hand:
  • A DOS boot disk. With the computer running DOS, you can run diagnostics to check the system hardware and usually gain access to the primary hard drive, depending on the drive format.
  • An Emergency Repair Disk (ERD). This floppy contains all the information required to restore the system partition and remedy other boot-related troubles. The process for creating an ERD is described below.
  • The three setup disks used to install Windows NT. These are used in conjunction with the ERD to repair many NT boot problems. You should have received these with your copy of Windows NT.

Creating an Emergency Repair Disk (ERD)
An ERD is usually created during the Windows NT installation process. However, additional disks can be created using the RDISK command. From the Windows desktop, go to Start | Run, and then enter the command RDISK /S. Follow the instructions and don’t forget to have a formatted disk ready. You’ve now got a working ERD and you’re ready to go.

The ERD repair procedure
Use the following steps with the ERD and three Windows NT setup disks.
  1. Reboot the computer using the Windows NT setup disks. You will only use disks 1 and 2.
  2. When prompted, select R for Repair.
  3. From the next menu, deselect any items you do not wish to perform, and then click Continue.
  4. Insert setup disk 3 and the ERD when prompted.

Last Known Good Configuration
The Last Known Good Configuration (LKGC) boot option is also an alternative when diagnosing NT boot problems. Each time a user successfully logs on to a server, NT makes a copy of all Registry settings. This information is stored within the LKGC and can be used to revert to a previously operational state.

You can activate the LKGC during the boot process when this message appears: “Press the spacebar now to boot with the Last Known Good Configuration.” This tool is particularly useful when troubleshooting problems caused by a change made since that last successful boot. Perhaps you’ve just loaded a new piece of software or changed a system setting. If problems occur during the next reboot, try the LKGC first.

Common error messages and solutions
The following are common error messages you may encounter during the Windows NT boot process.
  • BOOT: Couldn’t Find NTLDR. Please insert another disk.
    Perhaps the most common of Windows NT boot related problems, this error message usually occurs when a non-bootable floppy disk has been left in the floppy drive during a reboot. Simply remove the disk and try booting again. If this does not solve the problem, the Windows NT Loader file (NTLDR) is missing or corrupt. In this case, you must repair or replace it with an ERD. This error message can also be caused if no BOOT.INI file is present. To fix this problem, replace the BOOT.INI file from a backup or use the ERD.
  • Windows NT could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt:

    Please re-install a copy of the above file.
    This error message generally means that the NT Operating System Kernel (NTOSKRNL) is corrupt or missing. However, this problem may also occur if the BOOT.INI file points to the wrong partition. Use the ERD repair procedure detailed above to restore the NTOSKRNL. Otherwise, edit the BOOT.INI, including the correct boot partition.
You can edit the BOOT.INI file with a standard text editor, such as Windows Notepad.
  • NTDETECT v1.0 Checking Hardware…
    This error usually means the NTDETECT.COM file is missing. Use the ERD repair procedure described above to correct the problem.
  • Are you having Windows NT 4.0 boot problems? If so, how have you resolved them? We want to know. Post a comment below or send us an e-mail.

    About Bill Detwiler

    Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

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