Sometimes Windows just won’t start. It’s okay, you regularly back up or sync your hard drive with a cloud service like Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive. Didn’t you make any backups? Don’t have cloud storage? Oh. It’s okay, that’s it.
Let’s use the Linux Live CD to get to this hard drive and save our most important files.
You will need a Linux Live CD or USB .ISO file, a free program called Rufus, a blank USB stick that you can insert the Live CD into, and another USB stick to write the recovered files to.
The USB drive for recovery files must be formatted to FAT32 file format We will show you how to get a Linux Live CD and then use it to recover Windows files from your dead computer.
What is a Linux Live CD?
Linux is an open source operating system (OS). You may have already heard about Linux, but did not think that it would be useful to you.
Live CD or Live USB allows you to use the operating system on your computer without installing it on your computer. We’re going to stick with the USB type as many computers no longer have CD or DVD players.
Once you’ve made a working USB stick, you plug it into your shutdown computer. Then you start the computer and tell it to boot from USB. The operating system and all of its programs remain on USB. They are not installed on your computer.
The Live USB will have access to your computer’s RAM and processor to run. It will also give you access to all of your computer’s hard drives.
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 can do it on his computer.
First, you need to download a Linux distribution that does what you want it to do. There are several of them. Let’s use Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD). It is free to download and has a variety of programs and tools for disk cloning, data recovery, memory and CPU testing, and BIOS. Learn how to use these tools, and you might be able to fix a bad hard drive too.
You can download it through a peer-to-peer (P2P) tool, or you can download it directly from one of the listed mirror sites.
If you’d like to try a different Live CD, here are a few more options:
- SystemRescue CD – Contains antivirus, malware and rootkit removal, and other tools.
- Hiren’s Bootable CD – Includes Mini Windows XP so you can use Windows tools.
- UBCD FalconFour – Similar to Hiren, but with additional tools loaded in Mini Windows XP.
- GParted Live – mainly focused on managing hard disk partitions.
- Trinity Rescue Kit – text-based interface, easy recovery of deleted files and change passwords.
Also don’t forget to download Rufus This is the easiest and fastest way to make bootable USB sticks.
How do I make a bootable USB drive for Linux?
Rufus is a great little program that can help you turn any .ISO file into a bootable USB stick. You have already downloaded it, let’s open it.
Make sure you have selected the correct USB drive. This process will completely erase the USB drive. Rufus will already be tuned to the setting you want. Press the SELECT button to select our UBCD .ISO.
When File Explorer opens, navigate to where you saved the UBCD .ISO and double click to select it.
Now press the START button. When you hover over a button, you receive a warning: “This will DESTROY any data on the target!”
You will receive another warning that all data on the selected USB drive: ” WILL BE DESTROYED”. Rufus is not joking. Click OK to continue.
Rufus will start making a bootable USB stick. At the bottom, you will see the progress bar continue. With a USB 3 stick, it only takes a couple of minutes.
When READY appears on the status bar, press CLOSE. The bootable USB UBCD is ready.
How do I boot my computer from a USB stick?
It depends on the computer. There are several ways to boot from a USB stick, so it’s best to know the specifics of your computer. Usually, when you turn on your computer, you need to press a specific key or key combination to boot into BIOS and change the default boot disk to USB.
Check out our article on how to change the boot sequence in BIOS. Some laptops allow you to boot into the boot menu outside the BIOS, where you can choose to boot from a USB stick.
After you restart your computer with UBCD, you will see a text menu. Use the arrow keys to navigate to Parted Magic and press Enter to select it.
You will now have another text menu with three different options. You can choose: 1. Default settings (run from RAM) or 2. Operate with default settings. If one doesn’t work, try another.
When the computer launches the Parted Magic desktop, you will see the text scrolling. Then you will see a desktop that is not much different from Windows.
In the upper left corner, you will see the File Manager. It is the UBCD equivalent of Windows Explorer. Double click on it to open.
You will see several disks on the left side of the file manager. It may be obvious which drive Windows is installed on, or it may not. A surefire way to say that you will see a folder called Windows.
Having found this, you have found the disk with the files you want to recover. Go there to find the files you are looking for. Click “Users”> “Your Account”, where “Your Account” is the name of your account.
There you will see My Documents, My Pictures, Desktop, and so on. This is probably where you will find the files you want to recover. When you find them, you can select them just like in Windows. Right click and copy the files.
Then find another USB drive where you will paste the files. Once you find it, it’s as easy as right-clicking and pasting.
Your files are now on your USB stick and ready to be downloaded to your computer after the fix.
Close File Manager and click the Start Menu button in the lower left corner of your screen. In the picture below, it is outlined in a red square. Then click “Exit”.
Another window will open up with some logout options. Click Turn Off Computer.
After shutting down the computer, remove the USB drives and store them until the computer is working again.