Disk Cleanup

This is an actual conversation I had today at work. Guy brings me his laptop which won’t boot. I turn it on and I see the infamous NTLDR Missing message.

Him: I installed the new GE template, and after I rebooted this happened. It must have messed something up.
Me: I doubt that it was the template. Your NTLDR probably got corrupted – it happens sometimes.
Him: Really, it’s not the template? Cause that’s all I did.
Me: No, definitely not. The template is just bunch of Word and Excel files. It would not affect any system files. But it’s ok – good news is that all your data is still intact.

Here I boot up Knoppix on his laptop, and let him show me which folders he needs me to back up for him, and etc… Suddenly he asks:

Him: BTW, I had some strange files cluttering my C drive.. It was really annoying. I had all these .dll and .sys files there and it looked messy. I moved all of them to the C:\CHECK folder… But that wouldn’t cause this problem, would it?
Me: 8O

So I look in that folder, and there it is – NTLDR, along with IO.SYS and bunch of other files that should not be touched. Now I know why Microsoft insists on hiding these files by default.

From here, it was an easy fix. I used one of their DOS-like environments with NTFS support from the Ultimate Boot CD to copy the files to where they were supposed to be. That was really all that I needed to do. Sigh… Knoppix could really use NTFS support straight out of the box.

All in all, I’m glad he blurted it out. If he didn’t tell me he moved those files I would spend the next 3+ hours reinstalling windows.

What is the lesson of this story? Allways make sure you hide the system files on company machines or else your anal-retentive users will start cleaning up their disks.

[tags]ntldr, ntldr missing, disk cleanup, tech support, lusers, tech support stories[/tags]

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3 Responses to Disk Cleanup

  1. Pingback: Terminally Incoherent » Blog Archive » Tech Support Woes UNITED STATES WordPress

  2. Bob Smiley UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    After upgrading from Win98 to WinXP, I used the Disk Cleanup utility to clean up my hard drive, and decided to checkmark “Delete Win98 Installation Files” thinking they were now unnecessary and I could get rid of them. After the Disk Cleanup ran, and I rebooted, I got the “Can’t find NTLDR” error message, and couldn’t boot Windows anymore.

    I researched the issue on the net (fortunately I had setup a dual-boot to Linux so I could still use my computer), and tried various NTLDR fixes…Windows Recovery Console, etc… What I learned was that the Disk Cleanup had totally nerfed my Windows install. It not only deleted NTLDR and NTDETECT.COM, it deleted BOOT.INI, and a slew of .dll and system files needed for start up.

    Honestly, why would they offer the option to delete critical files in Disk Cleanup utility if it’s going to nerf a person’s system? That’s just cruel.

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  3. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Hmm… I’m not entirely sure how the Upgrade installations work, but I’m guessing that they are slightly different from the “clean” installs.

    What I’m thinking is that the Disk Cleanup utility was designed for “cean” installations. It is entirely possible to install two different copies of windows in parallel on the same partition (ie without overwriting system files of another installation).

    I’m guessing that the utility you used detected Win98 files and offered to delete them assuming that they were not needed.

    You know, some tools are simply designed assuming that the user knows what he is doing. You can only detect so much information, but at the end of the day, you are the only person who really knows what is going on on your system. That’s why the program offers you choices.

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