When your PC won’t boot from its hard drive, you might be dead in the water — unless you’ve created a bootable emergency repair disk or drive.
Repair disks don’t simply get PCs started; they also include tools that might fix what’s wrong with the system. And creating a repair disk takes just minutes.
Rescue-disk options for all Windows versions
There are various ways to create self-contained, emergency, boot/repair disks. With Win7 and 8, creating excellent repair discs is quick and easy. Vista and XP also offer repair disk–creation tools, but the process takes a bit more effort.
There are also numerous third-party boot disks — both free and paid — that work with all versions of Windows. The best of these have repair and recovery options that far exceed Windows’ native tools.
Of course, you can boot PCs using original Windows installation CDs or DVDs, and they provide some basic recovery tools. But most PCs now ship with the setup files in a special partition on the hard drive. Those files will be inaccessible if you didn’t take the time to create an emergency boot disk. In other words, a recovery partition might do you no good whatsoever in an emergency if you can’t boot the PC!
Even if you’ve diligently made system-image backups, you might still need an emergency disk at hand to restore the most recent image.
In Part 1 of this two-part article, I’ll discuss a wide range of emergency repair disks for XP, Vista, Win7, and Win8. I’ll start with the options in Windows 8 and work back to XP. I’ll also begin with Windows’ built-in tools and then mention some excellent third-party products — most of them free!