[Windows] Can’t boot into Windows? Recover and backup your data using bootable Windows system repair disk or USB drive [Tip]

A nightmare for Windows users is being unable to boot into Windows. In this situation, unless you know how to boot into Windows or some other trick, your data is likely lost forever. In this article I will show you a trick on how to use a Windows recovery bootable media to rescue and backup your data without booting into Windows.


It is basically the CD or DVD or USB drive that allows you to install Windows. You may have received such a disk when you bought your computer, when you upgraded to Windows, or you may have created one on your own. If it helps, don’t think of it as recovery media — think of it as the Windows install CD/DVD/USB. These disks are also called Windows system repair disks.


For the purposes of this article, we are specifically using a Windows 8 recovery disk. However, this same trick works with Windows 7 recovery disks and may work with Windows Vista and Windows XP recovery disks, too. The process for all Windows is essentially the same and we will point out in our guide where the process differs.

Please note you will need some sort of external media (USB drive, external hard drive, etc.) to copy your data to. If you don’t have external media, you will have no where to backup your data once you access it.


First of all, if you don’t have a Windows installation disk, you either need to find one or create one. We have a guide for those of you using Windows 8 on how to create a recovery disk. Windows 7 users can read this, Windows Vista users can read this, and Windows XP users can read this to learn how to create a system repair disk.

Once you have the recovery disk or USB drive, insert it into your computer. Now plug in the external media (USB drive, external hard drive, etc.) on which you plan to store your files. Then turn your computer off. Now turn it back on. Some computers may automatically identify and boot from CD/DVD/USB. Other computers may promote you to press a key to boot into the CD/DVD/USB, in which case you need to press any key. If your computer does not do any of these two, you will need to go into BIOS to change your settings.

Generally, you need to press an F key (e.g. F1, or F12) during boot to go to BIOS and change your settings. You can find out exactly which key you need to press by paying attention to the screen while booting because there is always instructions at the bottom (or top) of the screen during the first boot screen; it may say, “Press XX key to setup” or “Press XX key to choose boot drive.” Simply follow those instructions.

Once you are booted into the disk/USB, you should click the line “Repair your computer” at the left bottom of the window. You will see “Repair your computer” regardless of if you have a Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP disk/USB.


If you are using a Windows 8 disk/USB, you now need to go to ‘Troubleshoot’ -> ‘Advanced Options’ -> ‘Command Prompt’. If you are using a Windows 7 or below disk/USB, select ‘Restore your computer using a system image you created earlier’, click ‘Next’, then click ‘Cancel’ and ‘Cancel’ again. Then you will be sent to the ‘System Recovery Options’ screen from where you need to click ‘Command Prompt’


recoverydisk_image_4  recoverydisk_image_2

Once Command Prompt has opened, type ‘notepad’ (without the quotes) and hit ‘Enter’ on your keyboard. This will open Notepad.

Once Notepad is open, go to ‘File’ -> ‘Open’. At the Open window, make sure that you choose ‘All files’ in the ‘Files of type’ dropdown menu at the bottom of the window.

You should now see the window that allows you to open files. However, the trick here is you won’t be opening any files. Rather, you will use this window like Windows Explorer to browse, copy, delete, etc. your files. (But do not open them or else your computer may freeze.) In essence, it is like you are inside Windows and you are using My Computer. What you have to do is copy all the files you want to backup and paste them into the external media you have plugged into your computer.


When you done backing up your data, you just turn off your computer — your data is now safe on the external media you put it on!


Hope you find this article is useful.

[via How-To Geek]

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  • Justin Mathew

    Check out this video to know to backup or recover data without turning on PC: https://youtu.be/V5KEysWevEM

  • Excellent Data Recovery post and most important all above mentioned steps very useful actaully…..!!

  • rani


  • avinash

    U wrote the article as simple as the procedure is.. Beautiful..

  • Issac

    Thank you so much this is so amazing got my files back thank you

  • Tony O Hare

    Good you people shared such a article as this is a matter of common concern for all computer users . Here I have found some information at : http://www.miltonkeynesdatarecovery.co.uk

  • Sunny

    Hey, I’m really very thankful to you for this amazing trick and I’m really made a big fan of yours

  • Nicolas

    I just wanted to thank you for this simple, yet elegant solution that allowed me to retrieve data without having to hack my way into the hard drive using any boot CD methods. This way, without much hassle, I could recover all data and neatly copy it to my external hard drive. No tools needed, just Windows installer and an external hard drive. Appreciated!

  • RobCr

    Thank you, for the ‘heads up’ (Win 7 ISO)
    I help friends and neighbors when they have trouble with their PCs and laptops.
    Having the opportunity to use the disc in their PC could be invaluable, in certain situations.

  • Shailee

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!! I’ve spent 2 days on google trying to find a way to save my precious data! You’re a lifesaver! For those of you that are stuck in a start up repair loop and can’t get to your windows to make a recovery disc, you can download it from here http://www.techfleece.com/2012/10/18/download-windows-7-install-disks-legally-for-free/

  • Ashraf

    @Rob (Down Under): @jayesstee: I’ve removed it for now. It was causing a problem, I’m looking to get it fixed.

  • jayesstee

    @Ashraf: Yes like Rob (Down Under) said, no opportunity to edit or delete. Policy or problem?

  • jayesstee

    @Hoàng Tú: Thanks for a real neat tip!

  • Col. Panek

    Try to fix your windows before you restore or reinstall. Everybody should have an emergency disk like Hiren’s BootCD – http://www.hirensbootcd.org/ or Rescatux – http://www.supergrubdisk.org.

  • Rob (Down Under)

    Strange, I did not get the Edit countdown ?
    That last paragraph is slightly futuristic, as anyone reading this with no prior imaging, cannot Restore an earlier image.
    However there is a fair possibility that the image of the non booting Windows can be used time and time again, by restoring it to another drive, and attempting whatever you like, till you get it right (Groundhog Day)

  • Rob (Down Under)

    Let me tell you what you all should be doing.
    The following is based on my experience with Win XP.
    Buy one of these –
    It can take a 2TB drive (many have a limit of 1.5TB)
    Buy a 2TB Seagate 3.5″ Seagate drive, and shove it in vertically.
    Download the free Seagate DiscWizard program, and install it.
    Run the program once, and create a bootable Disc.
    Never run the program again within Windows (Actually you can use it to look into an image, and even copy files out of it.)
    Close down windows and boot into the CD.
    Make an image of your drive, or the Main partition.
    Verify that image.
    Do that every few days (and keep a couple of generations back).
    . . .
    Now back to the subject at hand.
    If you cannot boot in to Windows, it may be that your drive is dying.
    There can be alternate causes, but if your drive is dying, then everything you do to it, will be erasing more data.
    If my Windows was not booting, I would image the drive. Or alternatively if I had a similar drive, I would clone it. But to be truthful, I would probably just image it.
    As I mentioned above, you can later install the DiscWizard into another PC, and you can interrogate that image to get files out of it. But don’t do that yet.
    I would attempt to boot into Windows Safe mode, and attempt to Restore to the most recent Restore point. Hopefully that will fix the problem.
    Failing that, you could (NOW) try out the advice in this DotTech article.
    And if all else fails you can use the bootable CD to Restore an image (perhaps into a new drive). And also you can interrogate the image of the faulty drive, to extract the last couple of days files from it.