How to Recover Your Files When Windows Won’t Boot –

How to Recover Your Files When Windows Won’t Boot

This is the scenario: You turn your computer on one day, Windows starts booting and after a while you get a blue screen of death, or you get a message telling you that Windows won’t boot because a certain file is missing. What do you do now? The logical solution will be to take the hard drive out of the computer, make it an external drive and connect it to another computer via USB. Well, providing that your computer’s hardware is in good condition (e.g. your memory is good, your motherboard is functioning properly, etc.) and your partition table is fine, there is a better solution. You can extract all your data to a USB flash drive or to an external hard drive using a LiveCD without ever having to touch the computer’s hard drive.

What’s Needed For This Project

To do this we are going to download Parted Magic, which is Linux-based so its free. Parted Magic comes in an ISO image; burn this image to a CD using your favorite CD burning software. If you do not have any, I recommend ImgBurn (Freeware). You can probably use any Linux LiveCD, but I recommend Parted Magic because it has good hardware compatibility and includes other tools you can use for data recovery in case you need them in the future.


Connect your external hard drive to your computer; this is the drive we are going to use for extracting the data to.

Insert your Parted Magic CD on your computer, turn the computer off and turn it back on to boot from the CD. If your computer boots from the hard drive like it normally does instead of booting from the CD, you have to either enter the boot menu right when you turn the computer on (if your computer has a boot menu), or enter the computer’s BIOS and change the CD-ROM so it can be above the hard drive in the boot order process. If you do not know how to enter the BIOS, turn the computer on and watch closely at the screen; you will see a message at the bottom telling you something like “press F1 to enter setup” or “Press DEL to enter BIOS”.

Once you are able to boot from the Parted Magic CD, you will see a menu like the one below. Leave the first option selected “Default Settings” and click “Enter” to continue. If the CD gets stuck during the booting process, turn the computer off, boot from the CD again, but this time choose “Live with Low RAM Settings“.


Once the CD finishes booting you will find yourself in Parted Magic, which is just a customized Linux LiveCD operating system. Click on “My Documents” which is similar to “My Computer” in Windows.

There you will find both, your computer’s internal hard drive and your USB external hard drive. Click on your computer’s internal drive and look for the files you wish to back up. If your computer’s hard drive was running Windows, your files should be under C:\Documents and Settings\”your profile name”\My Documents, for Windows XP and below and C:\Users\”your profile name”\My Documents, for Windows Vista and Windows 7. Files can also be on your “Desktop” folder. Make sure your do not miss any.

When you finish locating your files, use “Copy” and “Paste” to transfer them from the computer’s hard drive to your USB hard drive.

Final Thoughts

This technique will only work if your partition table is in good condition. If the error you are receiving on the screen when the computer stops booting comes from Windows (example: “Windows could not start because the following file is missing” or your get a blue screen of death) you can most likely use this technique successfully. If the error message appears before Windows starts booting, (Example, “NTLR is missing”) then you probably won’t be able to use this technique. Good luck, and feel free to ask if you have any questions.


  1. Sangita, 18. March 2016, 18:27


    I have Windows 7 Dell laptop about 1 yr old and my hard drive crashed. I ran windows diag and it fails for the hard drive. MY IT person is not able to read it at all. Will Parted magic $9.00 one help me? It seems that my hard drive has major hardware failure. I have only lost 1 month worth of data, but I need this.


  2. Pablo Garcia, 1. September 2011, 20:42

    Hi Angela
    It is hard to tell whats wrong with you hard drive from here and with no details. Is the drive making strange noises? what is the last message you see when you try booting you computer. It might be that your hard drive has physical or mechanical damage, in which case you are going to have to use another method.

  3. Angela, 30. August 2011, 23:00

    I did not see a My Home, but a File Manager instead. It showed my hard drive, but gave me an error stating it could not be mounted. What next?

  4. Pablo Garcia, 29. July 2011, 23:50

    Download the fist one on the list: pmagic-6.3.iso i686

  5. Roger, 28. July 2011, 18:17

    Parted Magic offers a number of different versions to download. I have a Samsung R60plus which needs a complete restoration. Which version of Partmag do i choose?

  6. Joonathan, 5. June 2011, 3:50

    i need help to restart my seagate hard drive that was accidentally dropped; it is connected into my acer laptop ‘n is just flashing. It won’t connect to my computer like before, is there some simple solution… thanks

  7. Pablo Garcia, 31. May 2011, 20:28
  8. Karen B, 30. May 2011, 20:45

    I cannot get CD to boot. I also did a bootable USB with the above program but still having no luck. Yes I did change the BIOS settings. I am using a Dell Inspiron 8600 which has lost its boot files. Everything powers up as normal. Any other ideas as to how I can extract the files from the hdd?

  9. Pablo Garcia, 29. May 2011, 12:06

    Hi Rudy:
    Your hard drive should be fine. There is not need to buy a new one yet. Try this:

  10. Rudy Casarez, 29. May 2011, 6:55


    I just recently purchased a laptop from a private party (HP Pavilion DV5000) and whenthe seller demonstrated it, it worked well, but as soon as I returned home, I turned it on and everything worked well, but after I began to to delete the seller’s old information the computer restarted and then I got a black screen and it stated: TFGHT is compressed – press Alt, Ctrl, Dlt to restart. I do that, but the same error message is displayed. What do I do?

    I figure I’ll buy a new Hard Drive and try to run it and see if it’ll work, but I’ll need an OS recovery disc as well.


    Frustrated & Unhappy

  11. Pablo Garcia, 27. May 2011, 22:08

    Hi C:
    No, this won’t work for you, you already tried it and it did not work. Have you tried connecting the hard drive to the computer as a slave? using the SATA or IDE cable? Sometimes it works better than using a USB connection. If you can see the Windows logo when you boot up then you should be in good shape. Sounds like your hard drive has bad sectors, you can try using spinrite, or hard drisk regenerator to tr to fix those bad sectors. If that does not work, you use DDrescue. If DDrescue can’t recover it, no other software will. Read this article:

  12. C, 27. May 2011, 20:35


    Today, I turned on my computer – it started normally until it came to the page saying it didn’t shut down properly…… you then go start windows normally (or any other safe mode etc) and it will have the Windows XP thing pop up and load…. until it goes the the blue screen for one second and then re-boots. The blue screen, after taking a picture of it said something about an unmountable boot volume….

    I yanked the hard drive out of the computer and placed it in a 2.5 external drive and plugged it into my other computer. The blue light that loads is on for ten seconds, then goes off for two, and comes back on for ten… repeating the cycle forever…. the previous drive I had in there just had the blue light on the whole time when it was plugged into the computer… basically even with the external drive, the computer couldn’t load anything from that drive…

    I listened to this drive and it sounds like it’s spinning…will this work or do I have myself a new frisbee?

  13. Pablo Garcia, 24. May 2011, 23:15

    Hi Stuti:
    Did you check if the hard drive is being recognized by the BIOS? do you have the hard drive connected by USB or SATA/IDE? It s always better to use a direct SATA or IDE connection.

  14. Stuti, 19. May 2011, 5:03

    i have reached the root bt it shows nothing in my hard drives… moreover it shows just two of them instead of 3…. plz help asap

  15. Frauke, 18. May 2011, 3:12


    I tried this technique and I was succesfull to copy data to USB (the data was seen on the USB and the free space was adjusted) however afterwards the data was not present on the usb. Is there a trick or does it mean that the data is not possible to recover?
    I could open the PDF data on the pc when the Linux operation system was running.

    Thank you if you could help.


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