I admit to being a little confused though, as a previous post mentioned that the Windows folder was missing when you mounted the drive in Linux. I'm not sure what you have done to make it reappear.
With this, I believe I may have been interpreting the wrong drive as the system drive as previously I took out all the external drives that I could find to narrow down the results with reviewing my options for a list of disks available, YET, further I found out that the system drive wasn't even reading half the time, on and off during reboot to reboot. So I never even seen it before previously. It existed, but I was looking at the wrong drive.
Having no access to the tower because of how secured it is inside of this box filled with many other computer towers, I decided to stray away from that while I took the time to use other troubleshooting methods.
I was seeing DEVICE_NOT_FOUND errors from time to time (Not physically but it was the equivilant of what was returned in HDD diagnostic reports from the bootable utility I was using), and even the install disk wasn't reading the OS sometimes, which leads me to believe that this was just a result of not being able to read the drive, when in the BIOS as well, sometimes it was not getting seen...
It's an IDE drive from what I know. Others are SATA.
Please try and provide as much information as possible. What would really help for example is - how many physical disks/drives are present; number of partitions on each drive; whether files are present and accessible (e.g. can you see/access them from PE or Linux).
I did all this to the best of my knowledge, I had no way to access the drives in the tower without spending time disassembling the whole tower box he has which would have taken quite a while, so I went by what I seen. Although the external drives and any other drive but the main one with the corrupted boot sector are irrelevant in my opinion.
Carrying out commands (e.g. bootrec, using diskpart to change the active partition, etc) on the drive could make it harder to recover files in the long run. Ideally I would try to carry out read only checks/tasks initially.
Lots of these verification/scans/read only checks didn't do me much good as even chkdsk was having a hard time completing with verifying only. The only scan that i've successfully completed by now would be sfc with the verifiy flag set as the others won't complete for some reason (my suspicious which is due to having a corrupted sector; boot sector)
I selected the IDE drive which was confirmed to me as the system drive by word of mouth based on the partition and disk sizes using DISKPART, and selected partition 1 on that drive as active which I believed helped, as somehow this active drive must have been changed to the wrong drive, based on not being able to read the system drive from time to time on certain boot sessions... Probably why this error of not being able to find the boot manager, which was bugging me lol.
I would recommend (if possible) making a sector by sector copy of the disk before carrying out any actions on it - this will ensure that everything is copied - not just accessible files.
Wouldn't it be better to start fresh than to copy a possible corrupted sector of the disk now that I have the main important files recovered?
Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there. If the disk is mechanically sound then the files will remain on it until overwritten. This is why file recovery programs should always recover files to another physical drive/partition.
I'm already familiar with this as with background programming knowledge I have with the NTFS filesystem. Slowly becoming more independently knowledgeable about the boot routine as well through this experience
I never lost any files though, just the corrupted boot sector which is preventing the smooth process of booting the PC up. Winload.exe seems to have trouble loading some programs initially during startup in normal mode last time I seen.
I have known about the information left on the system even with "permanently deleted" files though. It's almost like cached data in some ways which doesn't get overwritten until it needs to be occupied by newer data on the drive.
That's the Windows boot manager - not DOS. The error didn't surprise me as winload.exe wouldn't be there if the Windows folder was missing.
I didn't mention DOS, but referred it as a DOS screen, just what I call the black screens on boot. Command screen, console screens, not a big deal... The Windows folder wasn't missing though, it was always there, but perhaps the entire drive wasn't being seen at some points when this had occurred. Which is essentially the same as having no Windows folder lol.
Great news on the back up. Provided all personal data is backed up I'd personally go for clean (re)installation. That's just my preference though.
This would be my preference too but not too sure about the actual computer user yet. I'd do it, and have it done in ~1 day with it all set up with programs and such, updates and security. Depends on what his perspective is though. And i'll have to double check that all those files are backed up, but he didn't have much other than what was in the %UserProfile% directories... Everything else was on external drives seeing as that the IDE drive he had was ~450GB in size