When the worst-case scenario actually happens, downloading the right rescue disc can save your hide, and your data. Since DOS doesn't handle XP or Vista repairs well, each of these discs boots into one of the following three operating systems. It's good to know a little about them.
Windows PE: The official, CD-bootable version of Windows (the PE stands for Preinstallation Environment) makes the obvious choice for this sort of thing. Unfortunately, Microsoft maintains strict control, and few utility authors have received permission to use it.
BartPE: Since Microsoft won't share its preinstallation environment, Bart Lagerweij created his own, and he gives it away for free. But to avoid copyright infringement, he can't give you everything you need to create a BartPE disc. The missing elements consist of Windows XP installation files you may or may not already have.
Linux Live CD: The name refers to any version of Linux you can download as an .iso file and boot off a CD. But Linux can be an intimidating environment for the uninitiated, it doesn't always handle NTFS well (many versions can read NTFS but not write to it), and it is seldom geared to help with Windows problems.
Six Great Rescue Discs:
- Puppy Linux isn't the most powerful version of Linux by a long shot, but it's great for accessing NTFS-formatted hard drives.
- BartPE helps you build a 'BartPE' (Bart Preinstalled Environment) bootable Windows CD-Rom or DVD from the original Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 installation/setup CD, very suitable for PC maintenance tasks.
- Vista Recovery Disc
- Ultimate Boot CD for Windows
- Trinity Rescue Kit or TRK is a free live Linux distribution that aims specifically at recovery and repair operations on Windows machines, but is equally usable for Linux recovery issues.
- Active@ Boot Disk is a bootable CD/DVD/USB disk that allows you to boot up your computer and fix most startup and PC configuration problems.