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4 Boot Programs to Help You Recover from System Failure

written by: •edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 4/28/2009

When the worst thing happens and you don't have a backup plan, these four programs are here to help. Having one of those disks could save you a lot of trouble and help you recover critical information.

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    Introduction

    Most of the boot programs we have seen are commercial, and of course, guess what - no one likes to pay, especially when the money doesn't guarantee the results.

    You probably remember the special day when Windows would just not load up. You worried about losing all of your information and other nasty things. Fortunately, you had this special floppy disk that helped you recover from the crash and test the computer with the appropriate tools. The need for such functionality has never ended, but floppy disks died somewhere in the DOS Era.

    It's not easy to make a bootable disk in Vista, but it can be done (no thanks to Microsoft). We all know the tools from the XP Install disk just don't work in Vista and the repair function causes even more problems. Fortunately, some developers of free software have stepped in, and here we'll look at several ways to boot a PC from a CD or a DVD.

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    Puppy Linux

    If Windows is making fun of you and simply doesn't load, this is the fastest tool to give you access to your hard drive. Puppy Linux, of course, is really the least powerful Linux version, but it does the job perfectly when it comes to accessing NTFS hard disks even if you are completely unaware of the famous open source OS Linux.

    Just load Puppy by starting from the CD, and then click on the Drives menu. The software will automatically open them and give you full access, unless the problem is much more complicated than you thought.

    If Puppy Linux successfully makes the hard drives both readable and writeable, you will soon be ready to transfer or backup all your information somewhere else. You can also edit files thanks to the editors integrated in the Boot Program - AbiWord and Gnumeric. The first one works with .doc files and the second with .xls. Keep in mind that hard drive attributes such as "read only" are not an obstacle.

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    BartPE

    The BartPE operation system can make a decent boot disc that can access Vista hard drives. The software doesn't include many instruments when it comes to checking and troubleshooting, but at least it has the "chkdsk" function, which should be the first thing to try after a complete system failure.

    The good thing here is that you can start any Windows application that doesn't require any special installation, registry entries and so on. If you are computer savvy, you can add your own application to the boot disk. The right time to do this is before burning it - look for the option because it will be given.

    However, downloading and doing magic tricks with the .iso won't get the work done. You need to download BartPe, install it, and then run the PE Builder. This is how you make your very own boot disk. Keep in mind the installer requires basic installation files from Windows XP or Windows 2000 and the easiest way to get them is to insert one installation disk of the related OS. Of course, if you had a Windows 2000 or XP disk, you could simply boot from it and run chkdsk from it.

    BartPE can be downloaded at http://nu2.nu/pebuilder

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    Vista Recovery Disc

    Even though that you are probably not the biggest fan of Microsoft at this point, you can't deny that the company sometimes has good ideas. After all, we have a package of operating systems used by millions people worldwide. However, one of these good ideas appeared when the beta version of Vista SP1 was released.

    This was something like the big brother of the Windows boot floppy which you could access from the start menu through the "Create a Recovery Disk" button, which records itself a Windows PE-based CD for those special times. Unfortunately, Microsoft is Microsoft, so they decided that the idea was obviously too good and removed the option from the final version of Service Pack 1. Fortunately, the NeoSmart Technology organization made the Recovery Tool into an .iso file and offer it free for use on their site.

    The Recovery Disk software is actually the Vista version of the Windows PE environment and represents a Windows Vista installation disk, with one small difference - there are no installation files at all even though there is an "Install Now" button. The button you’ll be interested in is "Repair your computer." Afterwards you can access some diagnostic tools and even run System Restore.

    The Recovery Disc be downloaded at http://neosmart.net/blog/2008/windows-vista-recovery-disc-download/

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    Tiny Rescue Kit

    The main goal of this Linux Live CD is to save Windows computers, which is more or less paradoxical. This tool doesn't just allow the creation of boot disc, but it also a very powerful environment with lots of restore capabilities. Unfortunately it not really designed for Windows users. If you are not a Linux fan, the interface of the command line in TRK may trip you up.

    However, if you make the effort to read the 45 pages of documentation, you will find that the software is not that hard to use, and you will be greatly rewarded for spending the time to get used to it. The tools you will have on hand include four scanners for malicious code, a registry editor, a password recovery tool, and even a program that clones a complete NTFS drive to another computer over the network. There is also a powerful tool for recovering deleted files, fixing the master boot record, doing hardware diagnostics, and backing up files and programs for dying hard drives.

    If you are a Linux fan, you will simply love it.

    Tiny Rescue Kit can be downloaded at: http://trinityhome.org/