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How to rescue your files if Windows is busted


Your computer has just committed hara-kiri by inviting the latest virus (Conficker?) and you cannot get it back up and running. As a last resort you decide to backup your important documents, photos that you took at Niagara Falls last year and the ASCII text file containing your passwords.


Create a System Rescue CD

Use an uninfected computer (Windows, MacOS, Linux, Unix) and download the System Rescue CD ISO file from sysresccd.org. [The latest version is SystemRescueCd-x86-1.1.7.]

Now burn this ISO to a blank CD. On Windows, if you don't have any ISO burning software, you can install the great ISO Recorder from here.

Start the rescue

After the ISO is written to CD, take it out, pop the CD into the drive of the computer that's busted. Set the BIOS to boot through the CD first, hard disk next. And allow it to reboot.

You should see this beautiful System Rescue startup screen. Type these options after the boot: prompt and press ENTER.

rescuecd docache dostartx dodhcp

The docache option allows you to remove the System Rescue CD after it boots up, so you can enter another blank CD/DVD and take backups. The dostartx option starts GUI automatically. dodhcp automatically configures the network and connects you automatically to the Internet after booting.

system rescue home screen

Load the appropriate keymap when prompted (or just select the default US keymap).

It should start GUI automatically. In case it doesn't, type startx at the command line and press ENTER.

Your desktop should have a terminal with a yellow background. We need to mount the partition and then do the backup.

Your Windows partition will most likely be located in /mnt/sda1 or /mnt/sda2. To check the partitions, run this:

fdisk -l /dev/sda

It should show you the partition names.

Then, to mount partition 1, run this:

ntfs-3g /mnt/sda1 /mnt/windows

If it mounts correctly, you should be able to see the files in your C:\ directory when you type:

ls -al /mnt/windows

Backing up your data to a CD/DVD

Now, to begin backing up your data, type this:


The Xfburn program will show you a list of your partitions. Browse to the Windows partition(s) using the Filesystem menu option on the top-left and select all the files you need. Click on New Data Composition. Insert a blank CD or DVD and allow to burn all your data to the CD/DVD.

Backing up your data to a remote location

This is easier if you love using the command line. First, make sure the network is up by pinging to google.com

ping google.com

If it throws up an error, you have to run this to configure your network interface:

net-setup eth0

If you want to transfer the files in the directory C:\\work to your remote server myremoteserver.com as user arul

The directory C:\work would be located in /mnt/windows/work. This command will transfer the directory:

scp -r /mnt/windows/work arul@myremoteserver.com

Enter the password for user arul and the file transfer will begin.

** This tutorial will be upgraded with more tips and HOWTOs. Please come back. You may bookmark it for reference.

Posted on 01 Apr 2009

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