Thank you, I did as you suggested and checked the boot order and diskette was first boot device, so I was able to re-order it so that internal HDD was first but it hasn't resolved the problem.
Nothing was done or added that might explain the problem arising. There was a windows update a couple of days before it happened but nothing that I know of immediately before it. I shut it down properly at night, unplugged it as usual, and it was like this the next morning.
One thing I found on at Dell's site (it's a Dell laptop, so I looked there first) was this:
NTLDR or NTDETECT Is Missing or Corrupt Error Message
Start the Windows XP Recovery Console:
a. Insert the Windows XP installation CD into the CD or DVD drive.
b. Restart the computer.
c. While the computer is starting, repeatedly press F12 every 3 seconds to access the one-time boot menu.
d. When the one-time boot menu appears, press the Down Arrow to highlight the CD-ROM option that appears, which is one of the following options: Onboard CD-ROM Drive or Onboard USB CD-ROM Drive.
e. Press Enter.
f. When the computer boots to the CD-ROM drive, press R to enter the Recovery Console.
g. If prompted, select the number corresponding to the Windows installation you want to repair and press <Enter>.
h. Enter the Administrator password, if any, and press <Enter>.
map, and press <Enter>. Make note of the drive letter assigned to the optical (DVD or CD-ROM) drive.
copy x:\i386\ntldr c:\ (where x is the drive letter for the optical drive), and press <Enter>.
copy x:\i386\ntdetect.com c:\ (where x is the drive letter for the optical drive), and press <Enter>.
If you are prompted to overwrite the file, type y, and press <Enter>.
Type exit and press <Enter>.
As the computer restarts, remove the Windows XP CD.
However, at step 1g:
If prompted, select the number corresponding to the Windows installation you want to repair and press <Enter>
It only offers:
Windows Vista Home Premium D: Local drive
That may be fine, it doesn't show a
C: drive but I don't know if that matters. I think
D: is the Recovery partition on my HDD but not certain, I have no way of checking the drive letters.
There is an option there to Load Drivers and a Next button, so I click Next to get to System Recovery Options.
(step 8. Enter the Administrator password, if any, and press <Enter>. doesn't apply in my case as the recovery console opens without that being offered or required)
then I'm stuck at the next step,( 2. Type map, and press <Enter>. Make note of the drive letter assigned to the optical (DVD or CD-ROM) drive.)
There is nowhere to type that.
There is a menu with...
Start Up repair (tried but said it failed to repair - see earlier post for that report)
System Restore (did that and it said it successfully restored to a date before last Windows update but it didn't solve the problem)
Windows Complete Restore for loading a backup image (I don't have one to upload)
Windows memory Diagnostic Tool (did that and can't now remember what it said but I think it all passed as ok)
Command Prompt (I opened that and followed the instructions...
- Type map, and press <Enter>. Make note of the drive letter assigned to the optical (DVD or CD-ROM) drive.
It says map isn't recognised as an internal or external command. I think the dvd drive is E: though
I then did this step
- Type copy x:\i386\ntldr c:\ (where x is the drive letter for the optical drive), and press <Enter>.
but typing in
copy e:\i386\ntldr c:\
copy e:\i386\ntldr d:\
since D: is actually the only one that showed up earlier
It comes up with
System cannot find the path specified
When I open the command prompt in the System Recovery Options menu, the command prompt line starts with x:\Sources>
That is there when I open it and does not delete. I don't know what it means or if it is causing the path to be wrong or if I shouldn't even be typing those lines in the command prompt but those instructions looked like command prompts, so I tried it, as there was nowhere else I could type them.
Although I avoid the command prompt like the plague, as I don't know anything about it, I am more accustomed to seeing it start with c:\Users\Cerio>, an not with x:\Sources>
I don't know if all that will enlighten anyone but I hope it will.
I also tried that option to Load Drivers and it comes up with all the folders on the CD but wants me to type in a name for it to find and I have no idea what name or path I should type there for it to find the required file, if the missing one is in there