How to Fix Windows XP NTFS.sys Errors Using a Linux LiveCD

Written by jeff grundy Google
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When Windows XP does not boot because of NTFS file system errors, you can usually fix the problem using the Recovery Console and the original installation disc. However, even the recovery tools on the CD cannot repair some NTFS file errors. Furthermore, repairing NTFS related errors with the Recovery Console is often difficult and involves memorising numerous -- and often very long -- DOS commands. With a Linux Live CD, though, you can boot your computer from the disc and repair most NTFS problems within minutes.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Computer with Internet access
  • Blank CD
  • CD burning program

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  1. 1

    Go to a working computer with Internet access and a CD burner drive. Navigate to a site that allows you to download free Linux Live CD distributions. Knoppix is a Live CD distribution used by many IT techs when repairing Windows-based computers. Alternatively, the website has many Live CD distributions to choose from that you can use to repair Windows XP NTFS errors. Download the ISO file for the Live CD distribution and save it to your computer.

  2. 2

    Insert a blank CD into the computer's CD burner drive. If the Windows XP auto-play window appears, close it.

  3. 3

    Launch the CD burning application on the computer. Click the "Burn Image" or "Burn ISO" link in the program and follow the prompts to install the Live CD image to the blank disc. Eject the disc after the burn process finishes.

  4. 4

    Power on the Windows XP computer with the NTFS errors. Insert the new CD you made into the computer's optical drive. Wait for the computer to boot from the Live CD. Some computers boot from CDs automatically while others require you to press a key to access the boot menu. If you must press a key to access the boot menu and boot from the CD, do so as soon as the initial boot screen comes up. Look for a message on the screen indicating the key you must press to access the boot menu or refer to your motherboard or system user guide.

  5. 5

    Boot into the Live CD distribution and wait for the Linux operating system to load on the computer. Since the entire operating system runs from the CD, it should take less than a minute for the Linux desktop to appear on the screen. In most cases, you should not need to enter a username and password to log in.

  6. 6

    Click the "Terminal" icon on the bottom of the screen or on the Program menu. On most Linux distributions, the "Terminal" icon resembles a small TV or monitor. A terminal window resembles the command prompt window in Windows.

  7. 7

    Type "SU" (without quotes) at the terminal window prompt and press "Enter." This turns your session into a "Root User" or "Super User" session, similar to "Run as Administrator" in Windows.

  8. 8

    Type "cfdisk" (without quotes) and press the "Enter" key. Record the name of the primary partition on the hard drive -- it's the largest partition on "Disk 0" in most cases. Usually the name of the partition is "hda0" or "hda1." Press the "Q" key to exit the Cfdisk utility and return to the terminal window prompt.

  9. 9

    Type the following command at the prompt:

    ntfsfix /dev/hda#

    Be sure to include the spaces as shown here. Replace the "#" value with the number from the partition list in the Cfdisk utility. For example, if the primary partition name is "hda0" type "0" in place of the "#" value, or if the name of the partition is "hda1," type "1" in place of the "#."

  10. 10

    Press the "Enter" key and wait for the utility to display a confirmation message that the repair to the NTFS partition was successful.

  11. 11

    Remove the Live CD from the computer's disc drive and restart the machine. Windows XP should start and boot normally.

Tips and warnings

  • This method repairs many common NTFS issues, but it may not work for serious problems where multiple system files on the XP hard drive are corrupt. If the Live CD cannot repair the errors, you must reinstall the XP operating system. Before you reinstall XP, however, use the Recovery Console utility on the XP CD to access the command prompt and then copy files to an external hard drive or flash drive.

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