Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt

A client in Llanberis recently brought in his PC which wouldn’t boot, displaying the error message:

  • Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt:

and would go on to list a variety of files on different attempts.

From past experience I knew that this could be a number of things:

1.  The file in question has been damaged by accident.

In cases where the listed file is the same every time, it can be that it has become corrupted innocently. The repair is to use your recovery disc and enter the repair console. From here you can access the command line and run the FIXBOOT command which will hopefully get it up and running again. This was not the case for this customer’s PC.

2.  The file has been damaged by a virus.

This one is a bit more difficult but can be dealt with similarly to that noted above. As an addition, however, you will need to ‘clean’ the machine after repair. To do this you will need a copy of the free software MalwareBytes which is the best tool that I have found for this task. Start your PC and repeatedly press the F8 button. This will get you the Windows menu from where you’ll be able to select “safe-mode” which will start your system with just the bare minimum of processes running. Transfer your copy of MalwareBytes to the machine, install and let it loose. Follow the onscreen instructions and you’ll soon have a functioning system once again. This was not the case for this customer’s PC.

3.  The hard drive is faulty.

To confirm a faulty hard drive you will need Hiren’s Boot CD which contains a dazzling array of extremely useful tools for both PCs and Laptops. Put the CD in the drive and boot up the machine. You will be presented with a menu – choose to boot the CD and browse the menus. HDD Scan is a good tool but you will also find manufacturers’ own scanning tools such as those from Seagate and Fujitsu. If the reported problem is bad sectors, you can try another tool on the CD: HDD Regenerator, which I have successfully used on a non-functioning hard drive. If the problem is mechanical, however, you are unfortunately stuck with data loss and paying for a new hard drive. This was not the case for this customer’s PC.

4.  One or more RAM modules is faulty.
The issue in this PC was a faulty stick of memory. The first thing that pointed to this was that while the error message was always the same (a missing file), the specific file mentioned wasn’t. I tried booting from the DVD Drive but none of the CDs I tried worked. This was the second clue. The only way to test the theory was to remove the memory sticks one by one.

  • I removed stick 1: the machine wouldn’t boot at all.
  • I put stick 1 back in and removed stick 2: the PC started up.
  • I put stick 2 stick back in: error message.

If you still have a problem after following the instructions above you can contact us on 07543 104 833 or via the message form.