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    How to recover your folders/files when Windows won’t boot


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    How to recover your folders/files when Windows won’t boot

    Post by retro8 on Sun Mar 03, 2013 10:40 pm

    When Windows won't boot into normal or safe mode, it may be due to:

    • The filesystem on your hard drive (your "HD") is corrupt / damaged
    • One or more Windows boot files on your HD are, themselves, missing or corrupt
    • Hardware problems (including but not limited to the disk drive, itself)
    When all’s said and done, you want a machine with all problems fixed. But before you do any repairs, you may find comfort in first knowing all your personal files are safely backed up. Once your data’s backed up, you can then (comfortably!) fix any computer problems (which may include reformating the drive or repairing Windows)

    Approaches to the problem

    When your computer won’t boot (and assuming you haven’t been backing your stuff up in the first place – which is a no! no!) you basically have two approaches to try and get to your personal data still on your hard drive

    1. Remove your HD and connect it to a working computer. You can
      > Use a USB to PCI or SATA cable to connect the drive directly OR
      > Put the drive in an external USB enclosure and connect it using a USB cable OR
    2. Boot your computer from CD or flash drive (since you can’t boot from HD). By using the right bootable CD or flash drive, you should be able to boot up your own machine and then often (but, of course, not always) be able to recover your files from your hard drive while it's still inside your own computer!
    The steps below show how to try and recover your files by creating "rescue media" that boots into Knoppix - an alternate (and free!) operating system

    • Knoppix is a variant of the Linux operating system
    • Knoppix runs on MOST hardware (let's hope your computer is included in the set!)
    • Once you boot into Knoppix you should (hopefully) be able to just connect a USB flash or external hard drive and then simply copy/paste your files to recover them!

    Even if you plan to remove your HD to fix it, I'd advise it's still worthwhile and helpful to download/burn and simply have these "emergency rescue CDs" at hand and available whenever needed)

    Step 1: Verify the filesystem on your hard drive
    When you boot Knoppix, you want it to mount the filesystem on your hard drive. But Knoppix can’t mount a drive if its filesystem is corrupt. (Corruption can occur due to a system crash or after virus infection). You may need to fix the filesystem on your disk before you can mount the disk in Step 2 below

    ==> Run the Windows command chkdsk /r from the Recovery Console to scan and fix filesystem errors

    The Windows Recovery Console allows you to run chkdsk. Chdsk is a Windows tool that verifies and fixes your HD’s filesystem

    Boot into the Windows Recovery Console

    • If you have your Windows Installation CDs see this post to boot into the recovery console
    • If you don’t have your Windows Installation CDsdon’t despair!

      • You can download the XP Windows Recovery Console here.
      • For Vista, you can download a Vista Recovery Console here
      • For Windows 7, you can download a Windows 7 Recovery Console here

    Important Notes

    • If you downloaded an ISO file see Knoppix Hints below about how to burn it
      >> ISO files are image files and must be burned as an "image", not as data, to create a bootable CD
    • Chkdsk can take a looonnng time to run (sometimes hours). Especially if you have a large hard drive.
      ===>> Do not interrupt chkdsk
      ===>> Don’t assume chkdsk is hanging unless you wait at least 30+ minutes for the screen to change! (e.g. waiting for it to change %complete)
    Step 2: Boot into Knoppix (an alternate and free Operating System)

    1. Go to the Knoppix home page
    2. Click on Downloads. Select a download site near you
    3. You want Knoppix v6.0 or later. At moment (as of October 2010)

      • As of October, 2010 Knoppix v6.2.1 is the latest version
      • The download link for the English version of Knoppix v6.2.1 is named: KNOPPIX_V6.2.1CD-2010-01-31-EN.iso
      • Select a Knoppix mirror (server)
      • Search the list of download links
        > Note!: You don't want an "ADRIANE" version of Knoppix. Don't choose links with the word ADRIANE in the name
        > Look for the ISO download named


  • Download KNOPPIX_V6.2.1CD-2010-01-31-EN.iso and save it (this is a big download)
  • Once the ISO download completes, you need to verify you received the entire ISO file and it wasn’t corrupted during the download. You’ll use the “HashTabs” tool to calculate the MD5 check sum of your ISO download file and compare it to the published correct MD5 value for the ISO file. If the MD5 value calculated for your downloaded file equals the correct result, then you have a good ISO download file you can burn!

    Install the HashTabs tool

    • Rt click the ISO download file. Select Properties->File Hashes. Select the MD5 value displayed by HashTabs
    • Next, you need the MD5 value of the original download file. (Look for the link with MD5 appended to the ISO filename)
      > Example: To get the MD5 value for English Knoppix v6.2.1 ISO file, look for link

      Code:KNOPPIX_V6.2.1CD-2010-01-31-EN.iso.md5> Click and save to your desktop
    • Now open the file: click Start->Programs->Accessories->Notepad, click File->Open
    • Then copy/paste the MD5 value into HashTabs' Hash Comparison field (click thumbnail for full image)

    • If the values match you'll see a green check mark followed by MD5 meaning your download is good!
      => If the download keeps failing during this long download time, see the "Knoppix Hints" below
    • Now burn the Knoppix .iso file to CD and then use it to boot up your own computer (for more help, see Knoppix Hints below)
    • Alternately, you can also easily create a bootable USB flash drive for Knoppix! (see below)

  • When you boot Knoppix, hit Enter (or let it timeout) at the boot: or any other prompt to select default options as it starts

    • Once Knoppix starts up, you'll see a different (but similar and largely intuitive) user interface
    • The first icon along the bottom left is like the Windows Start button to list all the programs now available to you under Knoppix
    • To its right is the Knoppix file/folder explorer icon. Click it. Can you navigate through all your folders and see all your files?? (we hope!)
    • Close file Explorer. Plug in a USB device directly into a USB port on the computer. Click to re-open the Knoppix File Explorer and copy your folders and files to the USB device!
    Knoppix even makes it easy to create a bootable Knoppix flash drive! (see Knoppix Hints below)

    Knoppix Hints

    Hint 1: How to burn an ISO file to CD
    An ISO file is a special type of file. It's an "image" of the disc surface to be burned. (An ISO is not a simple data file). ISO’s must be burned as an image file to create a bootable CD. Most burning software can burn image files. Click here for a list of popular burning software and their “How To” instruction

    Hint 2: Having a problem downloading the large ISO file?
    ==> Check Power Management
    ==> Use a wired connection

    If the connection keeps dropping while your computer is downloading the large ISO file

    • Download over a wired (not a wireless) connection
    • Check Power Managementsettings

      • To open Device Manager: Click Start->Run, enter: devmgmt.msc
      • Look for your network adapter device listed under Network Adapters category
      • Rt click Properties. Is there a Power Management tab?
        > If yes, click it. Then uncheck the box so you don't "Allow the computer to turn off the device to save power"
      • Also check Control Panel->Power Options to make sure your power setting is set to Never for everything (so they don't go to sleep)

    Hint 3: Does your computer not recognize the Koppix boot CD?

    => Did you burn the ISO file as an image file and NOT as a data file?? (see Hints above)
    => Try the boot CD on a different computer. Does a different computer recognize it as bootable?
    => Have you changed the computer’s boot order in BIOS to try booting from CD/DVD first?

    Hint 4: Do you see Knoppix starting to boot (its start commands appear on your display) but the boot seems to hang at some point?
    This usually means you downloaded an incomplete or corrupt ISO file. Knoppix won’t complete bootup unless you burned the complete and correct ISO file.
    ==> Download the Knoppix ISO again
    ==>The MD5 check sum for your downloaded ISO file MUST be correct or your Knoppix CD will never work right

    Hint 5: Does Knoppix CD start and complete bootup OK on one machine but not another?
    ==> If Knoppix boots correctly on one machine, use the Knoppix menu to create a bootable USB flash drive (assuming your machine can boot from USB)

    On occasion I've seen some computers that won't boot from a Knoppix CD but will boot from a Knoppix USB flash drive. If your computer supports booting from USB

    • Use the CD to boot into Knoppix on a working computer
    • Wait till the Knoppix desktop appears then plug-in a USB flash drive (make sure there are no files you still need on this device)
    • Click the Knoppix "Start" button (the icon in the lower left corner of your screen - just like Windows)
    • Look for Install KNOPPIX to flash drive under either Preferences or System Tools then click it
      ==> The location varies depending on which version of Knoppix v6 you're running
    • Select your flash drive in the pop-up window. Click OK. Click Yes to erase, reformat and create a bootable USB flash drive
    Hint 6: Knoppix boots but won't mount your internal hard drive?

    • Did chkdsk run and say it was able to fix your hard drive? If the filesystem on the drive is corrupt, Knoppix may have problems mounting it
    • Try booting from a USB flash drive if your computer supports it (see instructions above)

      Current date/time is Fri Jan 18, 2019 11:27 pm