Get the fix to the NTLDR is compressed boot error message affecting Windows XP.

About the “NTLDR is compressed” error

The following information on this error has been compiled by NeoSmart Technologies, based on the information gathered and reported by our global network of engineers, developers, and technicians or partner organizations.

Description and Symptoms

The error messages, alerts, warnings, and symptoms below are tied to this error.

Symptom 1: NTLDR is corrupt error screen on older versions of Windows

When a computer is turned on, the BIOS picks an eligible, bootable hard drive and then calls code stored in the MBR at the start of that hard drive. That MBR code in turn loads the bootsector from the active partition. On Windows XP, this bootsector code is tasked with loading NTLDR (the Windows XP bootloader) and its dependencies, which are used to load the operating system kernel and start up Windows. The NTLDR file is normally located in the root directory of the active partition on the first boot drive. However, if the bootsector detects that the NTLDR file is compressed using built-in Windows file compression, then the boot process halts and the “NTLDR is compressed” error screen appears.

NTLDR is compressed error screen

NTLDR is compressed
Press Ctrl+Alt+Del to restart

Causes of this Error

This error has been known to occur as a result of one of the following causes:

Cause 1: NTLDR is compressed

In Windows XP, file compression is a feature that allows the user to decrease size of files, folders, and programs, and reduce the amount of space they use on the hard drives. However, since the system bootsector code lacks the ability to decompress files by itself, the NTLDR file, which is a key part of booting process, should not be compressed.

Fixing “NTLDR is missing” on Windows

Windows Setup CD/DVD Required!
Some of the solutions below require the use of the Microsoft Windows setup CD or DVD. If your PC did not come with a Windows installation disc or if you no longer have your Windows setup media, you can use Easy Recovery Essentials for Windows instead. EasyRE will automatically find and fix many problems, and can also be used to solve this problem with the directions below.

Fix #1: Rebuild NTLDR via Easy Recovery Essentials

Easy Recovery Essentials’ one-click automated system repair corrects issues caused by compressed NTLDR bootloader files by recreating them from scratch on the active bootable partition for Windows XP, 2000 and 2003 Server. This is done automatically as part of the automated repair process, and requires no manual action or user intervention.
Easy Recovery Essentials is guaranteed to fix the “NTLDR is compressed” error automatically using its built-in Automated Repair option. EasyRE is currently available for Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8 and can be downloaded and created on any PC.

  1. Download Easy Recovery Essentials. Make sure to note your Windows version (XP, Vista, 7 or 8) before you download EasyRE. This guide can help you identify what version of Windows you have installed.
  2. Burn the image. Follow these instructions on how to burn the bootable ISO image very carefully, as making a bootable CD can be tricky! Alternatively, these instructions explain how to create a bootable EasyRE recovery USB stick/drive.
  3. Boot up your PC from the Easy Recovery Essentials CD or USB you created.
  4. Once EasyRE is running, choose the “Automated Repair” option and click Continue.
    EasyRE Home

    Choose “Automated Repair” in Easy Recovery Essentials

  5. After EasyRE scans your computer’s drives, identify and select the drive letter for your Windows installation from the list, and then click on the Automated Repair button to begin.
    EasyRE displays a list of found Windows operating systems

    Choose the drive associated with the Windows installation you’re trying to repair.

  6. Easy Recovery Essentials will start analyzing the selected drive for problems. EasyRE will test for and attempt to automatically correct errors with the disk, partition, bootsector, filesystem, bootloader, and registry. No intervention is required, as EasyRE’s repair is fully automated:
    EasyRE: Automated Repair

    Easy Recovery Essentials searches for errors and makes corrections to the selected Windows installation.

  7. Once the process is complete, EasyRE will report its findings. Click on the Restart button to reboot your PC and test the changes.
  8. The “NTLDR is compressed” error should now be fixed as your PC begins to load:
    EasyRE: Automated Repair

    Windows, booting up successfully.

You can download Easy Recovery Essentials from here.

Fix #2: Decompress the NTLDR file manually

Since this error is caused by a compressed NTLDR file, it is possible to fix it by decompressing it manually using the Windows XP Recovery Console.

Here are the steps to decompress this file:

  1. Insert the Windows XP install CD
  2. Restart the computer and boot from the CD
  3. Press any key to boot from the CD
  4. Press R when the Windows Options menu is loaded to access Repair Console
  5. After this step, log into Windows by pressing 1 using the Administrator password
  6. Use the following command to decompress the NTLDR file:
    attrib -c C:\ntldr

    Where C:\ is the Windows XP partition’s drive letter

  7. Once NTLDR is decompressed, remove the Windows installation disc from the disc drive
  8. Restart the PC

Here is an example of what the PC’s console output should look like once the NTLDR file is decompressed correctly:

Decompressing the ntldr file

Decompressing the ntldr file

Fix #3: Replace the NTLDR file

Windows XP users can replace the NTLDR file with a fresh copy from a Windows XP install CD.

Here are the steps to replace that file:

  1. Insert the Windows XP install CD
  2. Restart the computer and boot from the CD
  3. Press any key to boot from the CD
  4. Press R when the Windows Options menu is loaded to access Repair Console
  5. After this step, log into Windows by pressing 1 using the Administrator password
  6. Use the following commands to copy the NTLDR and file from the Windows installation disk to the hard disk:
    copy D:\i386\ntldr C:\

    Where D:\ is the install CD’s drive letter and C:\ is the Windows XP partition’s drive letter

  7. When prompted whether the existing file should be overwritten, answer “Y”(Yes)
  8. Once that file is replaced, remove the Windows installation disc from the disc drive
  9. Restart the PC

Here is an example of what the PC’s console output should look like once the NTLDR file is replaced correctly:

Replacing the ntldr file

Replacing the ntldr file

More Information

Linked Entries

Support Links

Applicable Systems

This Windows-related knowledgebase article applies to the following operating systems:

  • Windows XP (all editions)

Propose an edit






Tagged: