• How to use Linux to backup files after Windows crashes
  • How to use Linux to backup files after Windows crashes
    Written by battye
    Fri Jun 19, 2009 11:36 am

    Last year my Windows XP computer crashed. Unfortunately it wasn't a typical crash, because a simple reboot wasn't enough to get it back online. Start-up failed, the infamous blue screen of death (BSOD) appeared, the computer shut off and the cycle started again. It was an endless loop of failed start-ups!

    After a year of putting off recovering the files on the hard drive (which I suspect is on the verge of total failure), I finally got around to doing it just recently.

    The good news is, I successfully recovered all of the files I wanted to. I did it by booting through Linux, and I will explain how you can recover files in the same way I did. Included in this tutorials are screenshots I took along the way, to see higher resolution pictures click on the thumbnails.

    Step 1: Download a small Linux distribution

    Go to the Slax website. Slax is a small Linux distribution about 190MB in size. I downloaded the ISO (labelled "download Slax for CD").

    Step 2: Burn Linux to a CD

    Burn the ISO file to a CD. I am using Mac OS X, and I did this by opening Disk Utility (easily found by hitting Spotlight and typing Disk Utility). In Disk Utility, once the ISO file has downloaded it will appear as a volume on the left side of the Disk Utility (it appeared as slax-6.1.1.iso to me). After inserting a blank CD disk into the drive, I selected "slax-6.1.1.iso" and then clicked "Burn". After a few minutes the disk had finished burning.

    I have never burned an ISO using Windows, but tutorials explaining how to do this can be found at http://www.petri.co.il/how_to_write_iso_files_to_cd.htm and http://www.simplehelp.net/2007/09/11/how-to-burn-an-iso-file-in-windows/.

    Step 3: Put the Linux CD into the computer you want to get files from

    Put the CD into the drive of the Windows computer you are trying to recover files from and turn the computer on (or put the CD in immediately after you turn it on).

    Step 4: Boot from the CD-ROM

    Enter into the boot menu. Normally the first screen you see when you switch a Windows PC on tells you which button on the keyboard to press to enter the boot menu. In my case it was the escape "Esc" key. After pressing this a menu appears asking where you want to boot from. Select CD-ROM DRIVE and press "Enter" on your keyboard.


    Step 5: Wait while Linux executes

    For a few minutes you'll see a lot of commands run across the screen. Don't worry about these - I even saw a few things which looked like fatal error messages, but in the end it all worked out.


    Step 6: Use the graphical user interface

    You will see a green screen appear with a few options.


    Select "Slax Graphics mode (KDE). This will allow you to use a graphical user interface which is quite similar to the Windows look. It should take 30 seconds or so to progress to the next stage, don't fear if you see a black screen as it will disappear after a short while.

    Step 7: Wait as the desktop loads and insert your USB thumb drive

    The desktop will appear.


    Now insert your USB thumb drive or external hard drive into one of your USB ports. You should see a window like this appear: (select Open in New Window)


    For some reason Slax did not recognise some of my USB drives, and it read some of them as external hard drives and gave an error that the device was not able to work as the "feature is only available with HAL". I don't know for sure what this means, but I was able to get around it by trying a few different USB thumb drives until I got one that worked. I found a thread at another forum which can explain this better: http://www.slax.org/forum.php?action=view&parentID=1747

    Once the USB drive is inserted and you have it open in a new window, double click the "System" icon in the top left. You will see a browser window appear, and in the menu bar at the top select "Go" and click "Storage Media".

    Step 8: Access your old hard-drive (that you want to backup)

    The Storage Media window will appear.


    In my case, I had 4 different icons appear. "39G Media" was my old hard drive (which I was very relieved to see!), Floppy Drive goes to show how old the computer was! Lexar was my USB thumb drive which I used to backup the data, and SLAX was to show the CD in the CD-ROM drive.

    To access your old files, double click 39G Media (or whatever your equivalent is).

    I had a few scares when I received an error saying Konquerer (the browser window) had crashed, but after a few attempts the hard drive successfully loaded with all of my files still on it.


    You may have to navigate through a few directories to find your My Documents folder.

    I had to go by double click: Documents and Settings -> Owner -> My Documents

    Step 9: Copy the files across from the PC to your thumb drive

    Copy your files across. This is a simple exercise, as it is just like in Windows. Get your two browser windows (your hard drive and your USB thumb drive) side by side, and then drag across the folders and files you want to save.


    The only difference is that when you are copying them, you will receive a prompt asking if you want to "Copy Here", "Move Here", "Link Here" or "Cancel". Select "Copy Here", and the files will start to transfer across. You will see a progress bar with a percentage to show how far complete it is.

    And that's it! Once it the file transfers are complete, go back to the Storage Media window and right click your thumb drive and select "Safely Remove". I recommend putting the USB drive into another computer to make sure all of the files transferred succesffuly.

    Hopefully this tutorial helps someone. In all the entire process took about an hour, but depending on how many files you want to transfer the amount of time could vary.
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