WDFLDR.SYS Is Missing Or Corrupted - Vista

I've seen other posts for this subject, but I'm not clear that any resolutions included anything less than a full wipe and restore.

Equip: Dell D620 w/Vista Business SP1 (I believe that SP1 Auto Updated correctly)

My processes so far: From a cold start, I boot the machine, and within 10 seconds, I receive the Win Boot Mgr. message stating that the WDFLDR.SYS is missing or corrupted. I hit ENTER, where I'm led to the Windows Error Recovery page. This gives me boot options; safe mode, last known good configuratioin, etc., and none of them work, and I'm looped back to the same error message.

I don't have any of the disks that came with the machine, so I had to borrow a Vista Business SP2 CD from a friend. I can boot to this disc. If I select INSTALL NOW and attempt to perform an Upgrade, I can't. It's grayed out, and there's a message at the bottom of the page that says "Upgrade has been disabled". My other options from the CD is "Repair your computer". This lands me on the System Recovery Options window, where it highlights the only possible selection- Windows Vista Business. I hit "next", which immediatly lands me onto a System Recovery Options page, having five options:
Startup Repair runs and finally delares that it can't fix the missing file
System Restore doesn't fix the problem
Windows Complete PC Restore- An option of last resort that I haven't attempted because I haven't backed up my machine in 102 days!
Windows Memory Diag Tool - completes successfully
Command Prompt - which I can successfully navigate, using my dated knowledge of DOS.

Using the CLI, I can navigate to where I thought the file should be and it's not there.

Based upon the above is there anything else that I can do, short of whiping the machine clean? Did I miss anything? Any clues as to why I can perform an in-place upgrade using the Vista Business SP2 CD that I have in-hand?

As a platform this mature, you can imagine that it has quite a few important files on it- none that I'd like to lose if I can help it.


Knows where his towel is.
Staff member
For starters you can use a bootable Linux distro to rescue your personal files to external storage before you start trying to fix Vista.
Use Ubuntu Live CD to Backup Files from Your Dead Windows Computer
My own experience with Vista, which contrived to crash whilst not even being used (as a rarely used option in a W7/W8/Vista/XP quad boot, it managed to become unbootable between when I booted it to apply (successfully) about 3 months worth of MS fixes, and the next time it was powered up for the same purpose), was that a succession of replacing "broken" drivers from the installation DVD just led to the next one to fail.
I spent about a month on and off (because the OS was of little importance and not needed any time soon) just out of academic curiosity to find out how it had managed to break whilst switched off, before realizing that I was never going to reach the end of the chain of broken components. I did a chkdsk before giving up and it "fixed" over 300,000 broken things (but Vista still wouldn't boot)
The short story is that a reinstall is probably going to be your ultimate solution, but the above link should at least let you save your personal stuff before you reach that conclusion.
Thanks, Terry. I forgot to add that I conducted disk scans and most of the other "low hanging fruit" testing procedures.
Also, other than the forced Windows Updates, I didn't install any new software, peripherals, drivers or anything else. The device was working fine, and I shut it down properly to move it to another location, but upon booting it up, it immediately went though its Startup Repair routine.


Just a thought: From the command line, is there a means of determining if SP1 was fully installed? I understand through other posts that the Repair Upgrade feature does not work with Vista Business prior to SP1 being installed.


Knows where his towel is.
Staff member
Vista SP1 came out 5½ years ago !
Are you saying you just applied it ?
It was notorious for causing problems, but they were obvious at the time not retrospectively.
It appeared to freeze at 99% completed, with a black screen and keyboard/mouse both dead, but examination of the "HDD activity" LED revealed that something was still going on under the hood.
Those of us who left well alone and waited until no more flashing lights were visible before rebooting were rewarded with a functioning SP1 system.
Those who hit reset without waiting for a goodly while (and then some), ended up with an unbootable mess.
If you installed SP1, and have used it since, then there can't be a problem with it.
SP2 has been available for 4¼ years. I'm amazed you've survived so long without it.
Vista, sans SPs was comparatively unreliable iirc.
"Repair Install" has not been a feature of Windows since XP.
The ability to "Upgrade in-place" depends on the OS being functional. It's only an option when running setup from the DVD within the booted OS you wish to upgrade afaik. It's really designed to move XP>Vista, Vista>W7 etc. but can be fooled into Vista>Vista provided that Vista is working.
It's not an option from the booted DVD regardless of SP level.
I'm not sure if the Windows\System32\ntoskrnl.exe version is visible from the booted Linux CD, or whether only Windows can see that information, but if it can that should show what SP level is installed.