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Tip: Recovering Files After Windows "Blue Screen Of Death" Boot Failure

off topic -- not about online marketing -- but putting this up in the hope it helps someone get back lost files

blue-screen-of-deathWe have an old Windows XP computer at home which suddenly crashed this weekend, booting directly to the infamous "blue screen of death".

The computer held many of our family's digital pictures and my wife's ITunes. Ouch.

Just restore from a recent backup, right? Yeah, right. Ouch.

And most of the online advice for dealing with this problem begins, "Boot using your Windows Recovery Disk..." No clue where those OS disks went. Ouch again.

So, I tried the Linux recovery disk approach and it worked great.

Here are the steps, should these notes help someone else:

  1. On a working computer, download an ISO burner. I chose the free open-source InfraRecorder.
  2. Download a Knoppix Linux ISO. Pick a mirror near you, and grab the most recent image. I took this one: KNOPPIX_V5.1.1CD-2007-01-04-EN.iso. The file should be big, roughly 700meg. Downloading it could take a few hours, so do something fun meanwhile.
  3. Use the ISO burner to burn the image to a new CD. Don't copy the file to the CD; you need to burn it as an image. With InfraRecorder, choose Actions >> Burn Image. Label the CD "Knoppix Rescue CD".
  4. Boot the sick computer. While it boots, quickly hit F12 (if a Dell, otherwise follow the instructions on the boot screen) to reach the Boot Device Menu.
  5. Put the ISO disk in the sick computer's CD ROM drive.
  6. Select the "Boot from Onboard or USB CD-ROM Drive" option on the Boot Menu, and hit return.
  7. If all works well, in a few minutes the computer presents a knoppix desktop environment.
  8. You should see some harddrives on the screen. In my case, it mounted the tiny Dell rescue partition as /dev/sda1, and it mounted the sick Windows XP C: drive (NTFS) as /dev/sda2.
  9. I could then click into sda2 >> Documents and Settings >> Alan >> My Documents
  10. My initial plan was to plug in a USB 250gig external harddrive into the sick computer, then drag the photos and music files we wanted onto that external drive. No luck -- Linux insisted on mounting that drive as read-only. I tried to fiddle with /etc/fstab but gave up pretty quickly.
  11. Instead, I started up Samba through Knoppix. Leftmost bottom navbar Knoppix Icon >> 'KNOPPIX' submenu >> Services >> Start Samba Server. Pick a simple password for the 'knoppix' samba user.
  12. When asked, "Export all harddrives so they can be mounted, read, and written from the remote machine?", choose "yes"
  13. Pull up a shell (the black monitor icon on the bottom navbar).
  14. Enter "ifconfig" to determine the sick computer's IP address. It will likely be something like "192.168.0.xx". Write down that IP.
  15. On the healthy computer (on the local network), go to Windows Start >> Run and then enter the IP address from the prior step.
  16. You should then get a request for a user name password. Enter "knoppix" and whatever password you choose.
  17. If everything worked, you can use the healthy computer to drag important files from the sick computer onto the healthy computer, or onto an external harddrive. Whew!
  18. With your files safe, now get the sick computer fixed -- reinstall Windows, replace the harddrive, whatever.

Good luck!

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