Well, not quite.
I have finished messing with today’s computer niggles, and have fixed it. It turns out that my patented pull-every-piece-of-hardware from the case approach yielded a sinister wedge of fluff right over the IDE controller’s chip on the motherboard. One quick vacuum later, and the thing allowed me to boot from CD to repair the NTLDR and ntdetect.com. Boots fine now. I should have known as I’ve had PCI and ISA cards stop responding in the past because of minor shorts caused by fluff build up.
It struck me though that Microsoft’s recovery console is not for the faint hearted. It boots you to what looks like a DOS prompt, and lets you type in commands. Only, have a guess which basic yet massively helpful command isn’t available? Yes, DIR. So I have to guess the contents of directories, or even for that matter, the existence of directories. I managed to fix the files on the second attempt though.
The thought occured that even I was on the verge of thinking the motherboard might be expired after all my usual repair methods failed. Without a means to boot from a CD or hard disk, there would have been no way of using this computer. Most users would have considered their computer beyond economical repair and felt forced to replace it.
All because of a secret wedge of fluff. Thanks for the comments and advice left by peeps in my last post – all appreciated that peer group tech support still works!