Sometimes Windows just won’t start. That’s fine to make regular backups or sync your hard drive with a cloud service like Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive. You haven’t made any backups yet? You don’t have a cloud storage service? Oh. That’s okay, we have that.
Use a Linux Live CD to access this hard drive, save our most important files.
You’ll need a Linux Live CD or USB ISO file, a free program called Rufus, a blank USB drive to insert the Live CD, and another USB drive to insert your recovered files.
The USB drive for your recovery files must be formatted in FAT32 file format. We are going to show you how to get the Linux Live CD and then restore Windows files from your dead computer.
What is a Linux Live CD?
Linux is an open source operating system (OS). You may have heard of Linux but didn’t think you could use it.
With a live CD or a live USB device, you can use an operating system on a computer without installing it on the computer. We stick to the USB type as so many computers no longer have CD or DVD players.
Once you’ve created the Live USB stick, connect it to your computer turned off. Then start the computer and tell it to boot from the computer using USB. The operating system and all its programs remain on the USB stick. They don’t install it on your computer.
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The live USB accesses the RAM and CPU of your computer to function. It also gives you access to all of the hard drives that are in your computer.
How do I get a Linux Live CD?
Hopefully you did this before your hard drive stopped working. If not, ask a friend if you could make it using their computer.
First of all, you need to download a Linux distribution that will do exactly what you need it to do. There are several out there. Let’s use Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD). It is free to download and contains numerous programs and tools for drive cloning, data recovery, memory and CPU testing, and BIOS. Learn how to use these tools and you may be able to fix your failed hard drive too.
You can download it through a peer-to-peer (P2P) tool or do a direct download from one of the mirror sites listed.
If you’d like to try a different Live CD, here are more options:
- SystemRescue CD- Has antivirus, malware and rootkit removal and other tools
- Hiren’s Boot CD- Includes mini Windows XP so you can use Windows tools.
- FalconFours UBCD- Similar to Hiren, but with more tools in Mini Windows XP.
- GParted Live- Mainly aimed at managing hard drive partitions.
- Trinity Rescue Kit- Text based interface, good recovery of deleted files or changing passwords.
Also, make sure to download the Rufus . This is the easiest and fastest way to create bootable USB drives.
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How do I create a Linux bootable USB drive?
Rufus is a great little program that can do all sorts of things to turn ISO file into bootable USB drive. You have already downloaded it open it.
Make sure you have selected the correct USB drive. This process will completely erase the USB drive. Rufus will already be set to the right attitude you need. Click the SELECT button to choose our UBCD .ISO.
When File Explorer opens, navigate to the location of the UBCD .ISO and double click on it to select it.
Now click the START button. Hovering your mouse over the button will give you a warning, “This will destroy all data on the target! ”
You will receive another warning that all data is stored on the USB stick drive you have selected, “… WILL BE DESTROYED”. Rufus isn’t kidding. Click OK to continue.
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Rufus will start creating the bootable USB drive. You will see a progress bar is below. It only takes a minute or two with a USB 3 flash drive.
When the status bar says READY , click CLOSE . Your UBCD bootable USB drive is now ready.
How do I start my computer with a USB drive?
It depends on the computer. There are several ways to start with a USB drive. Hence, you should determine the details for your computer. The general thread is that when you turn on the computer, you have to press a certain key or combination of keys to enter the BIOS and change the default boot drive to your pen drive.
Check out our article that shows you how to change the boot order in BIOS. Some laptops allow you to boot into a boot menu outside of the BIOS that allows you to choose whether to boot from the USB drive.
Once you’ve restarted your computer with UBCD, you’ll see a text-based menu. Use your arrow keys to go down to Separate Magic and tap Enter to select it.
Now you get another text menu with three different options choices. You can choose either 1. Default settings (runs from RAM) or 2. Live with the default settings . If one doesn’t work, try the other.
When you start your computer you will see text that goes through Parted Magic Desktop. Then you will see a desktop not entirely dissimilar to Windows.
Near the top left corner you will see File Manager . This is the UBCD equivalent of Windows Explorer. Double click on it to open it.
Several drives will appear on the left side of the file Manager. It may or may not be obvious which drive Windows is installed on. The surefire way to tell is that it shows a folder named Windows .
If you find this, you have found the drive with the files that you want to recover. Navigate there to find the files you want Looking for. Click through User> Your Account where your account is the name of your account.
There you will see My Documents, My Pictures, Desktop and soon. This is where you will likely find the files that you want to recover. When you find it, you can select it just like you can in Windows. Right click and copy the files.
Then find your other USB drive that you will paste the files on. Once you find it, it’s as simple as right-clicking and pasting.
Now your files are on your USB drive and can be put back on your computer once it’s repaired.
Close the file manager and click the button in the start menu at the lower left corner of the screen. In the picture below there is a red square around it. Then click on Logout .
Another window opens with some options for logging out. Click Turn Off Computer .
After the computer shuts down, remove the USB drives and store the device for safekeeping until the computer is usable again.