How to access or recover files on Windows after crash (with a bootable or recovery Linux CD/DVD/USB) [Guide]

promotional-Usb-Flash-Drive-christmas-usb-flash-diskIf you’ve ever turned your computer on only to be greeted by a warning that your Windows has failed to boot, you might want to listen up. This guide will teach you how to install a live Linux distribution on a USB stick or a CD/DVD, so that it can used to recover or access files from your broken Windows computer.

Before We Begin

Before we go on, let me state that this method to recover files will only work if your Windows has crashed or is broken or is unbootable but your hard drive is still working. If you hard drive fails then the chances of you recovering files using this method is very small because you won’t be able to access the failed hard drive. In that situation, you would need a file/data recovery program that can create a bootable/recovery USB/CD/DVD.

Also, if you have fried RAM, you will first need to replace your RAM before using the trick we teach you here.

That said, there’s a few good reasons as to why you’d want to do this. Installing Puppy Linux on your USB drive or even just burning it to a disk (CD/DVD) will allow you to boot from it and use it as an OS. This works great if your Windows install is broken and you’re worried about losing files because, once you boot from your recovery/bootable CD/DVD/USB, you can access (copy, delete, rename, etc.) your files. Puppy Linux is a great option for this purpose as it loads itself directly into your RAM. Plus, using a Linux-based bootable/recovery/emergency USB/CD/DVD is a much better, safer, and faster way to grab files from your broken/crashed/unbootable Windows than using file/data recovery programs.

Of course, you will need some place to store the files you want to copy — such as an external hard drive or, if you are using a bootable USB, ensure you have enough free space on the USB to store files.

You will need a USB flash drive. It’s size should be no lower than 512 megabytes. It is recommended that you remove all files from it and format this disk to the fat32 file system. Formatting to fat32 is accomplished by going to ‘My Computer’, right clicking on the flash drive, selecting format, then selecting fat32 as the file system you wish to format it to.

Alternatively, you can also use a CD or DVD for this purpose.

You will need to know how to access the BIOS on your PC and configure it to boot from USB, CD, or DVD. Some newer computers are set, by default, to boot from USB or CD/DVD; if your computer is not, you will need to manually modify your BIOS to set USB/CD/DVD boot priority above hard drive. As each Computer’s BIOS is vastly different, it is recommended that you figure out what type of BIOS is installed onto your machine and do a bit of research (e.g. Google your computer manufacturer, model, and “how to boot from USB, CD, or DVD” or something along those lines). Take note some computers are simply unable to boot from USB, CD, or DVD; if you are in this situation, then you are simply out of luck.

This guide requires for you to have a working Windows computer to create the bootable/recovery/emergency Linux-baed CD/DVD/USB, but once you’ve created it, you can use the CD/DVD/USB on a crashed/broken/unbootable Windows computer.

Making a bootable USB flash drive requires special software. You will need to download Unetbootin to your Windows PC. Don’t worry, Unetbootin runs as is (it is portable — no installation required). Download it from here and save it to your computer

Making a bootable CD/DVD requires special software — you need a burning program that can burn ISO to disc. If you don’t have one already, grab ImgBurn and install it to your Windows PC.

The Linux distribution we’ll be using to create your bootable/recovery/emergency CD/DVD/USB is Puppy Linux. This particular Linux distribution works great for this purpose. Download the latest version of it from here and save it on your Windows computer.

How To Make An Emergency Linux USB Disk With Windows

  • Find unetbootin-windows-latest.exe and run it.
  • Connect your USB flash drive to your PC.
  • Once Unetbootin has opened, tick the ‘Diskimage’ button.
  • After ticking the ‘Diskimage’ button, select the browse button and find lupu-528.005.iso.
  • Once you’ve told Unetbootin where lupu-528.005.iso is, locate the ‘Type’ option. Make sure that type is set to USB drive.
  • After setting ‘Type’ to USB drive select the drive on your PC. If you don’t know which drive it is, navigate to My Computer and take note of your flash drive’s drive letter.
  • Press the ‘ok’ button to create the USB drive.
  • The USB drive will then start being created. Be patient and do not remove your USB drive.
  • When Unetbootin has finished creating the USB drive, it will prompt you to reboot. Do so.
  • Once you’ve rebooted your machine, quickly log into the BIOS on your PC and set it up so that you can boot directly from the USB drive.
  • When you’ve configured the BIOS on your PC to boot from your USB drive, exit the bios and proceed to boot into your USB drive.
  • While booting from USB, you’ll see the Unetbootin boot manager. Follow the instructions that it displays to log into Puppy Linux.
  • Once you are into Puppy Linux, simply use Puppy Linux’s file manager/viewer to navigate to your files stored on your Windows partition and copy/paste them over to whatever external storage you are using to save them.

Done!

How To Make An Emergency Linux CD/DVD With Windows

  • Open ImgBurn, the program you installed earlier.
  • Determine whether you’re going to use a CD or DVD to make your bootable disk. Once you’ve made your decision, place your blank disk in your disk drive.
  • Select the option ‘write image to a disk’
  • A file browser will come up. Point ImgBurn to the location of lupu-528.005.iso on your PC.
  • After pointing ImgBurn to lupu-528.005.iso, select the start button to start the burning. If you can’t find the start button, refer to the image below.

screenshot_read

  • Once you’ve selected the start button, the burning will then begin and soon complete.
  • When ImgBurn is finally finished burning your disk, your drive will eject it. Close ImgBurn, do not take the disk out of the drive and close it.
  • Reboot your PC.
  • Once you’ve rebooted your machine, quickly log into the BIOS on your PC and set it up so that you can boot directly from the CD/DVD drive.
  • When you’ve configured the BIOS on your PC to boot from your CD/DVD drive, exit the BIOS and proceed to boot from the CD/DVD drive.
  • While booting from CD/DVD, you’ll see the Puppy Linux startup menu. Follow the instructions that it displays to log into Puppy Linux.
  • Once you are into Puppy Linux, simply use Puppy Linux’s file manager/viewer to navigate to your files stored on your Windows partition and copy/paste them over to whatever external storage you are using to save them.

Done!

Conclusion

It’s always important to be prepared for an emergency way to recover data if your PC fails. Luckily, using a Linux distribution like Poppy Linux is a viable way to recover your files in case your Windows crashes or is unbootable. Enjoy!

Share this post

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

4 comments

  1. davidroper

    [@Grantwhy] You are so correct. I am agreeing. My sister was forced by me to buy a 1TB WD external HDD at SAM’S Club the other day for $59. I told her I would not go to her funeral if she didn’t. The backup software is on the HDD. Built in to work. Idiot proof so I thought she could do it. (she doesn’t know about DotTech)

    She backed up her home desktop and her husbands XP desktop where he owns a small Used Car company. She emailed me that it was “real fast”.

    I think it’s up to us to teach others what is the correct thing to do to save their own butts, instead of being Superman and flying in with a voodoo disk. When their HDD fails it’s all over, and the Voodoo disk won’t work to read it.

    Love this Dottech blog.

  2. Grantwhy

    [@davidroper]

    Not everyone backups.

    Not everyone backups on a regular basis.

    Sometimes it will be us, but more likely it will be a friend or family member who needs ‘the help’. And for me, something like this (PuppyLinux on USB/DVD/CD) counts as help.

    Now, I just need to stop putting off actually making a Linux Rescue USB (known about them for about 2-3 years, still “waiting” to actually make one :-p )

  3. davidroper

    But if we have backed up our files carefully, like, onto an external HDD, we don’t need this.

    What am I missing? A person who does not backup their files weekly at least, is not going to keep this Puppy around on a stick drive to save their bacon when needed.

    Resetting Passwords is a different matter, and I understand that part (better…)

    Just saying.

  4. vandamme

    Puppy is a fine OS on a stick all by itself, but be careful, Windows users, it is addictive!

    I keep Rescatux on a CD for catastrophes like resetting windows passwords or diagnosing hard drive problems (it has diagnostic apps with it). It has pulled my dupa out of the fire many times. There are others but I forget their names…