Access files if you can't boot into Windows

If you play a lot with your computer, or are simply unlucky, Windows might get damaged. It might in fact get so crippled that it won't even start anymore! If this happened to you, then you're probably searching for a way to restore your files (probably, since you're reading this article!) and that's exactly what I'm going to show you.

Technical details

You can skip this section of the article if you're already knowledgeable in computers, but I recommend you read it, because it will give you good information on what we are going to do.
When you start a computer, it need to boot something in order to use the computer. Boot is short for bootstrap, and is the first set of instructions the computer will execute. A normal computer will boot into it's operating system (ex. Windows). Unfortunately, if the OS is corrupt or damaged, it may seem as though your computer is completely unusable. This is not the case, since although you cannot boot into Windows, you can still use another device, such as a bootable CD or DVD. Here, we will use the Ubuntu Linux live CD as bootable media.

What you will need

  • An optical drive (CD,DVD or Blu-Ray) drive on the computer you wish to repair.
  • A working computer (I assume you have one since you're looking up this article).
  • An burning capable optical drive on your working computer.
  • The Imgburn program (free).
  • A blank CD,DVD or Blu-ray, to which we will burn data.
  • A Ubuntu Linux ISO that you can download at:

First step: setting up our bootable media

Notice the last download: A huge *.iso file. Iso files contain CD-ROM data, that can be burned or mounted. This particular file has the Ubuntu Installer and the Ubuntu Live CD. We are interested with the live CD, because it will permit us to access our files through the Linux interface without needing to install anything. and risking damaging Windows even more.
What you will want to do is to burn this data to a CD-ROM using Imgburn. Open up the program, and select the *.iso file, then burn the disk.

Second step: booting from the live CD

Now we have our CD. Insert it in the damaged computer's drive, and restart it. When the computer will open, you will have several options in the first seconds of the boot process. These will be like "press f2 for boot menu" or "delete=setup", stuff like that. The command we are interested in is the one that will let you access the boot menu, also called startup menu.
Once you got to the boot menu, tell the computer to boot from your disk.

Final step: retrieve your data

The disc will boot, usually in a few minutes. Then, you will be prompted to choose from a variety of options: choose "live cd".
Note: Some distributions will not ask you to boot from the Live CD but might automatically do so, and then give you the option to install it.
Give the software time to load, and you should now be able to navigate your files as if you had Linux installed. So plug in a removable drive, and start extracting your information!