How to Back Up Your Data When Your Windows PC Won’t Boot

back-up-data-windows-featured

Learning to back up data without booting Windows is a valuable skill. For one thing, you never know when your Windows computer is going to crash. What’s worse? Your PC might be kaput when you need it the most. Ouch!

Avoid getting locked out of your precious data; learn this valuable skill – back up your data without booting Windows at all.

Before we can do the backup, we need a set of programs that will help you access your old files. One of these programs is an operating system that you can boot from the USB drive. Any lightweight and simple Linux distro will do the job here.

Get a flash drive with at least 4GB of memory space.

Next, you will need an external hard drive with enough space to store the backup of your files.

The Linux distro that we are using for this job is Puppy Linux. It is very light at under 250MB.

1. Download Puppy Linux ISO. Make sure to select 32-bit if you are unsure of your PC architecture.

windows-pc-wont-boot-linux

2. Download Rufus USB tool and install it on a working Windows computer. (You can just run it if you have downloaded the portable version.)

windows-pc-wont-boot-rufus-usb-tool

3. Plug your USB drive to the working PC.

4. Navigate to your Rufus application, right click and select “Run as administrator.”

windows-pc-wont-boot-rufus-admin

5. On the start page there are a couple of settings you need to do. First, select your flash storage in the first menu. Don’t tamper with the remaining parameters.

windows-pc-wont-boot-iso-image

Move to the dropdown menu close to the bottom and select “ISO Image.” Click the disk icon beside it, and then navigate to the downloaded Puppy Linux ISO file.

windows-pc-wont-boot-iso-image-start

6. Click “Start” and choose “Write in ISO Image Mode.” This action will format your flash drive and install a bootable Puppy Linux image on your flash drive.

windows-pc-wont-boot-iso-image-copying

Wait until the Rufus tool shows “READY.” Now your bootable USB drive is ready.

windows-pc-wont-boot-rufus-ready

1. Eject your bootable USB drive from the working computer, and plug it into your computer with the faulty OS.

2. Turn on the computer and press the relevant shortcut key to enter the BIOS settings. (Different computers uses different buttons to enter the BIOS settings. It can be Esc or F10 or Del or F12; pick one that works for you.)

3. In the BIOS settings change the boot-up option to boot from the USB drive. (You might need to change the “Boot option” to “Legacy mode,” too, if it was using “UEFI.”) Save and exit.

4. The computer will now boot from the Puppy Linux USB drive. If successful, you should arrive at Puppy Linux’s desktop.

windows-pc-wont-boot-slacko-64

Now you can proceed to copy your files to your new hard drive. This stage may be confusing if you come from a Windows background. The options and menu are complicated, and some Windows shortcuts do not work. Thankfully, right-click and left-click mouse functions work as expected.

1. Examine the Home screen of Puppy Linux. At the bottom-left corner of the screen you will find some icons. These icons are the available storage and partitions on your hard drive. Your USB storage should also show up here.

windows-pc-wont-boot-slacko-64-menu

2. Click and open each of the storage partitions. Do this until you locate your main Windows partition.

3. Click on “Users.”

windows-pc-wont-boot-slacko-64-uses

4. Select your Windows username and open it. At this point all your previous files should be staring at you.

windows-pc-wont-boot-slacko-64-name

5. Plug in your external hard drive and make sure that it shows up on the screen. Right-click on the files you want to back up, and copy them to the external hard drive. Do this for all the data you want to reclaim, and wait for the backup to complete.

windows-pc-wont-previous-files

Now you have all your files back.

windows-pc-wont-boot-copying-files

You shouldn’t have to lose all your files or send your computer in for repair when your Windows OS doesn’t cooperate. Take charge of your computer, and get your files back from your computer. Note that you may not be able to recover installed apps, but your documents are sure to be intact.

Image credit: External drive connected to computer by DepositPhotos

2 comments

  1. The title is bit misleading. If your Windows PC won’t boot, then you can’t create a bootable USB drive using it. You should create that USB drive BEFORE the PC goes south. As a matter of fact that bootable USB drive will work when a PC with any O/S (Linux, BSD, MacOS, etc)refuses to boot, not just Windows.

  2. Wow. This article is pretty much pointless. OK, sure, you’ve backed up your data, but the article doesn’t tell you what to do after that. So, basically, you still can’t access your data because your PC still won’t boot into Windows and, worse, your data is now on **two** hard drives that you can’t access!! WooHoo!

    Here’s a better procedure to get back access to your data:

    Step 1: Make an image of the boot drive.

    Step 2: Reinstall Windows.

    Step 3: There is no Step 3; once you’ve completed Step 2, your computer will once again boot into Windows and you can access your data.

    Of course, this *is* Windows we’re talking about, so there’s a not-insignificant possibility that reinstalling Windows will stupidly reformat the drive…but then, that’s why you did Step 1. Reinstall programs, extract your data from the image and you’re good to go.

Leave a Comment

Yeah! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic! Check out our comment policy here. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation.

Sponsored Stories