Sunday, May 17, 2009

Windows 7's Potentially Show-stopping Boot Up Problem

Boots in the windowImage by Mimi_K via Flickr

I have installed the Windows 7 Release Candidate on two computers now and for the most part, it works very well. But there is one very serious potentially show-stopping problem which I have encountered. I first installed the 64-bit version of Windows 7 on an old laptop with 32-bit Windows Vista. The first couple of times that I rebooted, the computer complained that "ntldr" was missing and would not boot up unless I inserted my Windows 7 DVD. This problem eventually went away and I dismissed it as a fluke. Then I installed it on another computer....

The story begins a few months ago when I tried to build a file server with Via's new Artigo 2000 box using 32-bit Windows XP Professional and two 2 Terabyte Western Digital hard drives. It was a pretty nice little machine but it just wasn't robust enough to handle moving thousands of little files across a network. It would crash from time to time and couldn't reliably transfer video files to my TiVos. So I decided to scrap the experiment and maybe try later with a dedicated server OS like FreeNAS. In the meantime, I still had a lot of files to move around multiple computers. So I rebuilt my Shuttle XPC with a dual core processor and 2GB of RAM. While I had used this computer as a file server before I hadn't been happy with the results and felt that it was overkill for just serving up files to other computers. Nevertheless I stuffed the two Western Digital drives in that box and installed the 64-bit version of the Windows 7 RC on it. The result was a very fast computer with 4TB of storage space that didn't crash when I used it to serve video to my TiVos.

Things went great with my new rig until Windows 7 decided that it needed to install updates and reboot. When it rebooted, the dreaded "ntldr missing" message reappeared and unlike with my laptop, it has stuck around for several reboots. Poking around the Internet, I saw that is happening to other people as well. I have tried several solutions but have yet to find one that works....Other than keeping my Windows 7 DVD in my CD drive during boot up.

Now perhaps this problem is my own fault for being careless but still it is a serious problem troubles me.
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