Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Unfortunately you can't just "make a boot disk", but there are approaches that will allow you to boot from CD to access the contents of your hard disk.
Is there a way to create a Windows XP startup disk that would allow me to make changes or run a restore point, if my computer won't boot from the HD? I have one I found for Linux or Ubuntu (I think, I don't know what all the names mean) called Knoppix, but I found it rather hard to use since I am not really familiar with it. I have also looked at BartPE site, but there is so much I don't understand. I just want something basic that will allow me access to my files.
In the old MS-DOS days it was easy to make a boot floppy. Even early versions of Windows could be dealt with that way.
Today? Not so much.
You've actually touched on the most common and useful solutions. Let's look at those and one other as well.
Because of product licensing issues you won't find a legal copy of Windows that you can just download and burn to a boot CD. It'd be nice, but it'd be illegal as it would make pirating Windows essentially trivial.
BartPE, for Bart's Preinstalled Environment, is the defacto standard for solving this problem using Windows.
But BartPE is also not something you download. Rather, it's something you build. To work around the licensing issue, you download the PE Builder and then using that tool and your own Windows installation CD, you build a new, bootable CD image which you can then burn to CD.
That bootable CD is then a fully functional version of Windows which should allow you access to the other drives on your system.
The build process may seem a little complicated, but in reality it's not that bad. The real value in BartPE is in fact that Builder which handles most of the steps for you.
Knoppix is a version of the Linux operating system specifically designed to be run from a bootable CD.
The good news: using Knoppix you can once again access all the files on your machines hard disk even if you can't boot Windows. In many if not most cases you'll also get complete network access as well, so you can use Knoppix to copy files to other machines on your local network or even the internet.
The bad news: it's Linux. Not that Linux is bad, far from it, but it's different. In many ways the UI can be very similar to Windows, so many things will be quite familiar. The problem is that you'll run into differences where it won't be all that obvious how to do what you want.
The bottom line is that there's a learning curve. But it's a worthwhile one. Personally I find it quite easy to download, burn and boot a Knoppix CD, and for the longest time that was my recovery method of choice.
Ubuntu is a different distribution of Linux. It's actually targeted at being the desktop operating system you would install on a machine. However the default distribution CD actually boots as a stand-alone operating system much like Knoppix.
Since I usually have an Ubuntu CD lying around, this is what I use these days.
And once again, you should be able to access and copy files that are on the hard disks on your machine after you've booted from the Ubuntu CD.
Bootdisk.com has exactly what it's name implies: boot disks. Lots and lots of boot disks.
You mention that all you want is access to your files, and there's almost certainly a boot disk here of some sort that will allow you to do so.
The trick is figuring out which one. It assumes a fair amount of technical competence to figure out which boot disks will apply in your situation. As a result, I include it here for completeness, but actually recommend one of the prior solutions for most folks.
The bad news, to address one more aspect of your question, is that none of these solutions will allow you to run or revert to a restore point. Your best bet there is to boot from your hard disk into Safe Mode, which should allow you to do so. If that doesn't work, then I'm not aware of a way to recover the restore points themselves. The approaches above will allow you to recover files from your machine, however.
It's unfortunate that it's not easier, but ultimately it is what it is. The good news is that with a little effort and/or education getting and using a bootable CD to recover data from a hard disk isn't terribly difficult.
Comments on this entry are closed.
If you have a question, start by using the search box up at the top of the page - there's a very good chance that your question has already been answered on Ask Leo!.
If you don't find your answer, head out to http://askleo.com/ask to ask your question.