Missing Operating System or Operating System Not Found

Missing Operating System or Operating System Not Found

Troubleshooting This Common Windows XP Error

After switching on your computer or after restarting Windows XP you receive the error message ‘Missing Operating System‘ or ‘Operating System Not Found‘.

The above error messages are usually caused by the following:

  • Incorrect Setup Utility settings (BIOS)
  • Loose or disconnected IDE cables (the cable that connects the hard disk to the system board)
  • Damaged Hard Disk
  • Incorrect or No Partition set as Active.

It can be tricky to diagnose and ideally you want to be doing as little digging inside the case as possible.

I’ll try to rule out software causing the problem first, by checking BIOS settings and then upgrading the BIOS if possible.

Solutions

Step 1 – Check BIOS (or Setup Utility as it’s sometimes called)

  1. Accessing the BIOS
    • When you first switch on your computer you should see either a colorful screen with a logo or a black screen with white writing
    • There should be a message indicating what keys to press to enter the Setup Utility or BIOS.
    • Often the key is either DEL, F2 or F12 but all manufacturers vary.
    • Here’s a really good site that has most manufacturers
  2. When you enter the BIOS/Setup Utility you will need to locate the section that lists all detected hard disks in your computer
    • As an example, I’m going to use an Award BIOS (as shown below).
    • When you enter the BIOS you will see something like this:
  3. Select Standard CMOS Features and hit ENTER. You will see something similar to the following:
  4. Now that you’ve got this far, here are your options –
  • Option A) You see [Not Detected] for all options from ‘Primary IDE Master’ down as far as ‘Serial-ATA 4 Channel’
  • Option B) You see one device detected
  • Option C) You see more than one device detected

Option A – Check the Hard Disk Cables and Jumpers

  1. Power down your computer and unplug it from the socket. Safety first!
  2. Open you’re computer by following the manufacturers instructions (be careful of static electricity. Ground yourself and wear a static bracelet preferably)
  3. Locate the rear of the hard disk which will have a wide (about 2 inches) usually grey flat cable coming out of it. Make sure this cable is snuggly fitted into the back of the hard disk. Also check the power cable while you’re there
  4. Now follow the grey cable to the system board. It should plug into the IDE0 connector and should also be firmly connected
  5. Now inspect the jumpers. Ensure that the jumper is set to ‘Cable Select’ and that no other devices are on the same grey cable
  6. Close up your case and start the computer up. Now check your BIOS again following steps 1 to 3 above.

Option B) – Is it your CD/DVD or a Hard Drive?

  • Examine the name of the device that is detected
  • Could it be your CD or DVD drive?
  • If it is it will usually have the likes of RW or DVD or CD in the text. A good way to find out is by searching Google for the exact text that you see in the BIOS.

If you have discovered that it is in fact your CD/DVD drive then your hard disk is not being detected.

If the one device is a CD/DVD drive and zero hard disks are being detected in your BIOS – Follow instructions for Option a) above to re-seat cables & check jumpers.

If the one device is a hard disk then proceed to Solution 2 below.

Option C) – Do you have 2 CD/DVD drives?

  • Examine the names of the devices that are detected
  • Do you have two CD or DVD drives?
  • Do you have two hard disks and is it detecting the hard disk that doesn’t have Windows on it?
  • Follow the instruction above in option b) to find out if you are detecting two CD/DVD drives.

    If the all detected devices are CD/DVD drives and zero hard disks are being detected in your BIOS – Follow instructions for Option a) above to re-seat cables & check jumpers. If at least one device is a hard disk then proceed to Step 2 below

Step 2 – Check the Boot Order in the BIOS

Now that you’ve established that have a hard disk detected in the BIOS we need to check the Boot sequence or boot order.

  1. Find the menu in your BIOS that controls the boot order – mine is called Boot Sequence
  2. Ensure that your hard disk is set as the first boot device (you can change this after to make your CD the first boot device if you need to)
  3. If you’re boot order is set correctly and you are still seeing the error message then proceed to Solution 3 below

Step 3 – Set Partition Active

Now that the BIOS is sorted hopefully, if you are still receiving the error you must ensure that the correct partition is set as active.

  1. Boot your computer using your Windows XP setup CD and select the Recovery Console option on the Welcome screen
  2. If requested, choose your Windows installation and enter your administrator password
  3. At the command prompt issue the following command and press ENTER:
  4. DISKPART

  5. At the diskpart command prompt issue the following commands and press ENTER after each:
  6. LIST DISK

    SELECT DISK {disk}

    Note: Replace {disk} with the disk number that your Windows installation is on as displayed following the LIST DISK command

  7. At the diskpart command prompt issue the following commands and press ENTER after each:
  8. LIST PARTITION

    SELECT PARTITION {partition}

    Note:
    Replace {disk} with the disk number that your Windows installation is on as displayed following the LIST DISK command.

  9. At the diskpart command prompt issue the following commands and press ENTER after each:
  10. ACTIVE

    EXIT

  11. Remove your Windows XP CD and restart your computer
  12. If you have tried all the above and your hard disk is detected OK and set as the first boot device and you’re still getting the “Missing Operating System” or “Operating System Not Found” message then I would recommend reading through some of the other solutions listed in my Windows Startup Troubleshooting Guide as performing some of the actions in them have proven to fix this issue too.

Cannot find the system file in the standard locations on drive C

Description

When attempting to perform the sys c: command you receive the error message ‘Cannot find the system file in the standard locations on drive C:’

Symptoms

  • You receive the error message “Cannot find the system file in the standard locations on drive C:” when attempting the command sys c: on your Windows XP computer
  • You have booted the computer using a boot diskette created with Windows ME (MIllenium Edition)

Explanation

This is error is occurring because you have upgraded your computer from Windows Millennium Edition and system files that the sys command needs are missing. Solutions Below….

Solution – Restore The Correct System Files

  1. Boot the computer using a Windows 95/98/ME startup boot diskette or bootable CD
  2. Issue the following commands at the command prompt pressing ENTER after each:

    c:

    cd windows

    Note: If you get an error to the above command then your Windows folder may have a different name. Type dir and hit ENTER to see a list of the files and folders on C: and locate the name of the windows folder. Once you have found the correct folder, issue the ‘cd’ command as above replacing the folder name windows with your windows folder. For Example: cd winxp

  3. Once you have managed to change into your Windows folder, issue the following command and then press ENTER:

    cd command

    Note: You may receive an error message that the path is not found. If you do, issue the following command md command and press ENTER. Now repeat step 3 above.

  4. Once you have managed to change into your Command folder, issue the following command and then press ENTER:

    cd ebd

    Note: You may receive an error message that the path is not found. If you do, issue the following command md ebd and press ENTER. Now repeat step 4 above.

  5. Issue the following commands, pressing ENTER after each:

    attrib -s -h -r c:\io.sys copy c:\io.sys winboot.sys a: sys c:

NTLDR is missing. Press CTRL+ALT+DEL to restart

NTLDR is missing Press CTRL+ALT+DEL to restart

Description

After switching on your computer or after restarting Windows XP you receive an error message and cannot get into Windows.

 

You will usually have no choice but to switch off the computer or restart by pressing CTRL+ALT+DEL.

 

This article describes several possible solutions to get your Windows XP up & running again.

 

Symptoms

You receive the following error message when starting or rebooting your computer:

NTLDR is missing.  Press CTRL+ALT+DEL to restart.

Explanation

The above error messages are usually caused when the following conditions exist although there are other causes:

  1. The primary partition is formatted with the FAT32 filesytem
  2. The computer starts by using INT-13 extensions
  3. The heads value in the FAT32 BIOS Parameter Block (BPB) does not match that of the physical disk drive

 

Solutions

Step 1 – Remove non bootable media

  • Remove any floppy disks, CD’s or USB sticks from your computer and restart.

 

Step 2 – Copy new system files

  1. Boot the computer using a Windows 95/98/ME startup boot diskette or bootable CD
  2. Backup MSDOS.SYS by issuing the following commands at the command prompt (pressing ENTER after each command):

    attrib -h -r -s c:\msdos.sys

    rename msdos.sys msdos.old

     

  3. Now copy new system files across by issuing the following command and pressing ENTER at the command prompt:
  4.  

    sys c:

    A helpful tip. Sometimes the above command fails if you are using a Windows ME boot disk. If it does following solution ERROR: Cannot find the system file in the standard locations on drive C

     

  5. Rename MSDOS.OLD back to MSDOS.SYS by issuing the following command and pressing ENTER at the command prompt:

     

    attrib -h -r -s c:\msdos.sys

     

    copy msdos.old msdos.sys

     

     

  6. Remove the boot disk/CD and insert your Windows XP CD
  7. Restart the computer by pressing CTRL-ALT-DEL the system will boot into the Windows XP Setup.
  8. At the welcome screen press ‘R’ to enter the Recovery Console
  9. At the recovery console, select your Windows XP installation and enter your Administrator password if requested
  10. At the command prompt issue the following commands and press ENTER after each command:

    fixboot

    fixmbr

     

  11. Remove your Windows XP CD and restart the computer

 

Step 3 – Windows Repair

  1. After Step 2 above, it is sometimes necessary to run or re-run the Windows XP Setup repair process
  2. If step 2 did not solve you issue re-insert your Windows XP CD and run Windows Setup again

 

Step 4 – Download & Run BCUPDATE2

 

Occasionally this error is caused by too many files in the root folder and an issue with an out of date windows version. This can be solved by downloading and running BCUPDATE2.EXE

 

  1. Download BCUPDATE2.EXE by clicking here (this will open in a new window/tab)
  2. Copy BCUPDATE2.EXE into the root folder of a Windows 95/98/ME boot diskette or CD
  3. Boot the computer using the boot diskette or bootable CD
  4. At the command prompt issue the following command and press ENTER:
  5. bcupdate2.exe C: /F

    A helpful tip.If you receive the error ‘bcupdate2 is not recognized as an internal or external command, operable program or batch file’ then you have either not copied the bcupdate2.exe file correctly to your boot diskette or CD or you have copied into a folder inside the disk or CD

  6. When prompted to update the volume press Y
  7. After you receive a confirmation message, remove your bootable diskette or CD and restart your computer.

Non-System Disk or Disk Error

Got a floppy disk inside or is it something else?

After switching on your computer or after restarting Windows XP you receive the error message ‘Non-System Disk or Disk Error’ and cannot get into Windows.

Symptoms

You receive the following error message when starting or rebooting your computer:

Non-system disk or disk error

Why?

The above error message is usually caused by a non-bootable removable media such as a floppy disk or CD inserted in the computer when attempting to boot.

A non bootable disk or CD inserted can also cause the NTLDR is missing error.   See this article for more troubleshooting guides or keep reading on below for more.

Solution – Error: Non-System Disk or Disk Error

Solution 1 – Remove non bootable media

  • Remove any floppy disks, CD’s or USB sticks from your computer and restart.

Solution 2 – Follow the NTLDR is missing error troubleshooting article

  • This error message is often seen in conjunction with the NTLDR error. Follow the troubleshooting guide found here

Windows Boot & Startup Troubleshooting Guide

PC Booting BIOS ScreenCan’t Get Into Windows?

After switching on or rebooting your PC, you are receiving one or more error messages and cannot access the Windows XP desktop.

Typically you won’t be able to get past these messages. You will have to either switch off or restart by pressing CTRL+ALT+DEL.

This troubleshooting guide covers some of the most common Windows XP boot up problems and their solutions.

If you do come across a solution that doesn’t work for you, why not leave a comment below the solution and see if others can help you out.

Symptoms

  • You cannot boot into the Windows XP desktop
  • You are receiving one of the error messages below:
    • Non-System Disk or Disk Error
    • NTLDR is missing. Press CTRL+ALT+DEL to restart
    • NTLDR is compressed.  Press CTRL+ALT+DEL to restart
    • Operating System Not Found
    • Missing Operating System
    • Invalid Boot.ini
    • Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: Windows\System32\Hal.dll

Explanation

This troubleshooting guide will assist you to solve the problems associated with the error messages listed above.

If your error message is not listed please write a comment with details of your problem so that we can update this troubleshooting guide which will also assist others with the same problems. 

Solution 1 | Error: Non-System Disk or Disk Error

Click here for the non-system disk or disk error troubleshooting guide

Solution 2 | Error: NTLDR is missing.  Press CTRL+ALT+DEL to restart

Click here for the NTLDR is missing troubleshooting guide

Solution 3 | Error:  Operating System not found

Click here for the Operating System not found troubleshooting guide

Solution 4 | Error:  Missing Operating System

Click here for the Missing Operating System troubleshooting guide

Solution 5 | Error:  Invalid Boot.ini

Click here for the Invalid Boot.ini troubleshooting guide

Solution 6 | Error:  Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: Windows\System32\Hal.dll

Click here for the Windows\System32\Hal.dll troubleshooting guide

Solution 7 | Error: NTLDR is compressed.  Press CTRL+ALT+DEL to restart

Click here for the NTLDR is compressed troubleshooting guide