Missing or corrupted Master Boot Record when installing Windows on removable media: how to fix problems?

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Missing or corrupted Master Boot Record when installing Windows on removable media: how to fix problems?
Missing or corrupted Master Boot Record when installing Windows on removable media: how to fix problems?

When installing operating systems on hard drives, the installer usually determines on its own which version of the loader and the organization of file allocation tables will be used. However, in the case of installing Windows on removable media using one of the most powerful utilities of our time called WinNTSetup, quite often users have to choose these options themselves, and the program may signal problems or damage to the boot sectors. The operating system can also issue messages at the very beginning of the boot (something like Master Boot Record damaged), but such problems are relatively easy to fix by using the special Bootrec.exe tool with additional attributes on the command line. Usually it is enough to add /fixMBR and /fixBoot combinations separated by a space, and if this does not help,perform a complete rewrite of the bootloader with the /RebuildBCD attribute added to the main command.

Master Boot Record vs. GUID: which is better for hard drive or bootable media?

First, let's look at the difference between these two standards. The Master Boot Record, or MBR for short, can be interpreted as the Master Boot Record, to which the primary BIOS system passes control after checking the system components at computer startup. This standard is supported by most well-known operating systems, including Linux and MacOS of different versions. Quite often, when installing an operating system, a hard drive or removable media has to be partitioned, and the main disadvantage of MBR is that this standard does not support media with volumes larger than 2 TB and cannot create more than four logical partitions on one disk.

GPT disk structure with GUID tables
GPT disk structure with GUID tables

In contrast, GUID is a newer form of file allocation table organization, but only works with UEFI primary systems and GPT disks. The number of partitions you can create is practically unlimited, and each of them can be larger than 2 TB. In addition, the GUID stores several copies of the bootloader, which are scattered throughout the disk. But if the Master Boot Record, which is stored in a fixed location, is damaged, the user starts having problems. However, experts do not yet have a consensus on the use of one or another standard, since GUID is also considered an unfinished system, although the prospectsher development is quite high.

WinNTSetup Master Boot Record is red: how to fix it?

Now let's move on to troubleshooting problems that may occur when installing Windows on removable media. After starting the WinNTSetup program, there are three indicators in the boot media selection field on the right, which are green by default, since the application initially selects the hard drive's system partition.

Indicators in WinNTSetup
Indicators in WinNTSetup

When specifying removable media, their color may change. The occurrence of problems can be judged by the change in the color of the indicator to yellow and red. At the moment, it does not matter at all what color is present on the indicator, since the problem that has arisen is eliminated by the same methods.

The first indicator is responsible for the Master Boot Record. If it is red or amber, it indicates that the boot area on the media was not found (missing or damaged).

Configuring the MBR in Bootice
Configuring the MBR in Bootice

To fix the problem, you will need an additional Bootice utility, after launching which you first need to select the disk on which the operating system is supposed to be installed, then use the Process MBR button, specify Windows NT 5.x / 6.x in the record type, click the Install / Config configuration change button, and in the message that appears, select the Windows NT 6.x MBR item. When all actions are completed, the problem will be fixed, and the indicator will turn green.

Problems with BOOTMRGPBR

In addition to the main Master Boot Record indicator, there are two more. The second (located a little lower) changes color quite rarely, but if it does, it seems that there are some problems with formatting the selected partition (all partitions must be formatted only in NTFS).

Standard partition formatting
Standard partition formatting

To fix the error, you can use the standard Windows tool, even with the quick cleanup option, but specifying the file system type exactly NTFS.

BOOTPART problems

Finally, the third indicator lights up other than green, due to the fact that the active boot disk (partition) is not correctly selected.

Activating the boot partition in Bootice
Activating the boot partition in Bootice

To fix the error, the aforementioned Bootice program is used, a disk is selected, the Parts Manage button is pressed, and the active partition is changed in the window that appears (the flash drive must first have one partition for the bootloader with a size of about 100 MB, and the second for the operating system). Now it remains only to press the Activate button, after which a notification will appear about the successful activation of the selected section. At the end of the above steps, run the main installation program again and select the necessary partitions for the bootloader and the main files of the operating system to be installed on removable media.

One last thing

In conclusion, it remains to be said that for all the described situations, of course, you can use the tools of the operatingWindows systems (mainly from the command line), however, such solutions may seem quite complicated to ordinary users, therefore, for obvious reasons, they were not given above.

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