• Replacing the Master Boot Record on an XP system

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    Just got an interesting question from an old friend:

    I messed up a master boot record and need to get it back, without reinstalling anything. In my naive thinking, I can take everything out of that computer, install a new copy of the OS, and take the master boot record of the second copy and copy it in the first one. Is that a feasible strategy? To make things worse, the OS that I need to reinstall is Windows XP. I do not have a copy of Windows XP, and I need to install the service pack 3, if I were to start from scratch. So, I am at a loss here. Do you have any suggestions? I do not have a disc to recover the original OS.

    The hard drive that is not working has some files which I have recovered successfully, so reinstalling is feasible, if I can take that route, but I would prefer not to, because it has programs (such as Visual Studio 2010 and the corresponding SDK) which I think would be impossible to find, so if you have any ideas, I would appreciate them.

    It’s been about two lifetime since I struggled with an XP MBR. Can any of you help?

    Viewing 9 reply threads
    • #208335

      This one has me stumped.

    • #208339

      Buy a Windows XP disc on ebay, then repair the MBR.

      Copying an MBR from a different disk isn’t going to work unless the partition table is exactly the same.

      Not sure whether to trust these folks or not, but there’s an XP iso for download here.

    • #208364


      Write/burn the ISO to a DVD+R or USB-stick by using Imgburn, Universal USB Installer, etc to create the Win XP Install media.

      Wonder whether reactivation of the Win XP license will still be needed or required by M$.

      Edited for content. Please see Lounge Rules.

      • #208544

        One of the Lounge Rules by woody; … Also note that I am loathe to post links to any software of dubious pedigree. Yes, that includes hacked copies of Windows 7. It also includes password crackers, keygens, and the like.

        M$ no longer provides Win XP iso file downloads. If non-M$ links to download Win XP iso files from the Internet are prohibited, how are affected Win XP users going to create their own Win XP Install DVD/USB.? Forced to buy from eBay.?

        Similarly, how are affected/victimized OEM Win 7 users going to create their own OEM Win 7 Install DVD/USB.? Forced to buy from the OEMs.?

        AV programs can be used to detect viruses in downloaded hacked copies of Windows iso files.

        I have a friend with a 2012 Dell Win 7 laptop that encountered a hard-drive failure about 2 years ago. He had no OEM Win 7 Recovery DVD because the OEM did not give him one. This was when the OEMs started to stop giving out free OEM Win 7/8 Recovery DVDs and instead just provided an OEM Recovery partition on the internal hard-drive for the buyers to self-create an OEM Factory Image Recovery USB-stick.

        He asked me for help. Since M$ did not allow OEM Win 7 license owners to download the iso file from M$’s website, I had to download the Win 7 iso file from another non-M$ website by Google Searching and it was scanned for virus. Eventually, his Win 7 system was reinstalled on a new hard-drive and reactivated online automatically with his OEM Product Key.

    • #208399

      He can use FDISK/MBR to rewrite the master boot record, without touching the partition tables. This has to be done using an XP startup disk (a floppy disk), or using the first recovery disk, or even perhaps using a bootable thumb drive. FDISK/MBR was commonly used to wipe out boot sector viruses in the old XP days.

      I know that I have, somewhere, an XP startup floppy disk. If your friend doesn’t have a floppy drive in his computer, then we will go with the bootable thumb drive solution. The last resort solution is that I Dropbox an ISO of one of my XP SP3 installation media.

      I have to head out the door (busy day). I will get back to this either this evening or in the morning.

    • #208414

      Searches: [ windows xp mbr repair without cd ]; [ windows xp iso ] and similar.
      It looks like SP2 and SP3 are available as downloads.
      I have both: SP2 CD from Microsoft; SP3 on a CD, from original download.
      Subsequent fixes are a different challenge.



    • #208447

      There’s a head scratcher from “yesteryear” from memory here, create an .iso, never created a USB or even sure it would work although there’s a util. out there called PLOP that enables Boot from USB (on older Machines), but Req. access to the C:\ drive to install from inside the OS and its a complicated setup, sounds like that isn’t Avail. as an option.
      Any way couple of ways to go, either Reinstall over the Top of the existing XP install, or try the RECOVERY CONSOLE if installed (it was a separate option as well you could add to your MBR to recover run CMD’s without the Disk), or try the RECOVERY options from the First few Blue Screens. A word of caution though they aren’t very reliable though, and seldom work and if NTLDR is reporting missing its generally a no go. There’s a link far better than I can explain it here: https://neosmart.net/wiki/fix-mbr/#Fix_the_MBR_in_Windows_XP . XP is one of those that if it doesent fix it first time a Reinstall over the Top of an existing Install, or a “Wipe” and Install from fresh. As for getting a copy of XP there’s loads out there, and I guess some even come with Keys, but that also comes with Caveats such as Piracy, hence no links, and really, probably the most important could well be laced with Malware and other Nasties deposited in the “I386” folder. Good luck 🙂

      PS looks like @PaulK has found some, good on ya Paul! didn’t think there was any still out there: https://www.askwoody.com/forums/topic/replacing-the-master-boot-record-on-an-xp-system/#post-208414

      • #208527

        well after much “rooting around” I found the old XP Bible here, according to it:
        From the Recovery console Booting with Disk if you haven’t got the one added to your Boot record
        BOOTCFG /ADD to append a Win Installation to the BOOTINI without changing existing entries.
        NTLDR, NTOSKRNL.EXE, NTDETECT.COM, can be copied from the CD (.iso or source normally the i386 folder) I would imagine using XCOPY
        For the future you can add Recovery Console so you don’t have to have a disk or Boot from same, although if you need to copy files to rebuild the MBR your probably better to have it handy.
        D:\I386\WINNT32.EXE /CMDCONS where D=disk, this adds a recovery console to your Boot/menu options at boot time very handy, just make sure you have your password handy. Its saved my Bacon more than a few times travelling with XP. 🙂

    • #208450

      A good hex editor and a lot of knowledge.
      WinHex is the gold standard, but if not affordable, any free hex editor/disk editor would do the job.
      Try this one
      Other tools from lsoft are great, but require a lot of knowledge to understand the fine details about MBR/Partition Table, Boot Sector and the other pieces in the puzzle.
      Do an image backup first.
      Or even better, get rid of XP.

    • #208455

      While at this subject, does anyone know a reliable tool for Windows to format FAT32 with custom reserved sectors / reserved sector count?
      There is a tool for Linux named mkfs.vfat and it can be run to format USB thumb drives from a Linux Live CD. There is also a port of this tool for Windows, but the reports about its reliability are not encouraging and I would certainly prefer to use a native tool for Windows, or the next best would be to run it natively on Linux.
      If you ask why I need this, is because I am trying to customise the file system alignment (not the partition which is less relevant for FAT file systems) for a USB stick to play music in a very demanding Car Stereo, for which specifications are not published in detail in the manual. This enquiry is of general interest as many owners of car stereo have hit this problem and there are very few relevant answers.
      For most uses, Windows FAT32 formatting on a cluster aligned partition starting with Windows 7 (or possible Vista) does a good job, but car radios have special requirements.
      The workaround that I know is to misalign the start of the partition to align the file system, but the right and official way is to align the partition and customise the reserved sector count parameter to align the file system too.

    • #208554

      For simplicity, I have, in the past, successfully used a free utility called:

      MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition.

      They still seem to provide a free MBR repair utility for WinXP/ Vista/ 7 from within a bootable ISO that needs creation to either a USB stick or CD once initially installed. I still have this in my software toolkit for convenience and time saving, albeit version 7.

      For those who wish more info on how to do this and how it works see: rebuilding MBR provided by the utility authors.

      Note: I have no affiliation with the software developers. Just a satisfied end-user occasionally using Version 7 off-line when required 🙂

      No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created IT- AE
    • #208666

      Please PM me for a solution.

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