The master boot record, or MBR, is a section of the storage space on a hard disk drive that is used for the maintenance of data needed to initiate a boot of the computer. Generally, the boot record is housed in the very first sector of the hard drive, making it easy for the system to locate, read, and execute the files necessary to launch the application. All the codes needed to access the files, and begin the boot are included in the master boot record.
There are several key elements of a MBR that allow the section to function at optimum efficiency. One of the more important elements is the partition table. This table contains the basic directory that guides the process of reading and initiating the boot. The partition table will work in conjunction with some type of bootloading software in order to interact with the operating system and successfully complete the process.
As with all sections of the hard drive, it is possible for the master boot record to become corrupted. When this happens, it may be impossible to boot up the hard drive at all. However, if the master boot record is still partially operational, there is some chance of being able to launch the operating system in safe mode. From there, it may be possible to restore the hard drive to an earlier condition using recovery software that is housed on the hard drive. If the drive will not boot up at all, it may be possible to correct the problem by using the recovery disk that manufacturers normally provide as part of the support resources that come with the computer hard drive.
If the user is unable to work around the corrupted state of the master boot record, the hard drive may need to be analyzed and repaired by a professional. This may involve extracting saved data from the hard drive and rebuilding the partition table in order to salvage the drive. Many hard drives can be salvaged and the saved data reloaded in a short period of time.