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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-disk [1]If 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 [2] 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 [3] 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 [4] 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 [5] and save it on your Windows computer.

How To Make An Emergency Linux USB Disk With Windows

Done!

How To Make An Emergency Linux CD/DVD With Windows

screenshot_read [6]

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!