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Thursday, January 26, 2017

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How to Backup Data from a Computer that Won’t Boot Up

Oyetoke Tobi - Thursday, January 26, 2017

Having issues with your computer? Is your computer not booting? Then how do you backup your data from a computer that won’t boot? Sounds impossible right? But the truth is it is indeed possible for you to backup data on a computer that won’t come up.  

There is nothing about computer that scares you like finding out that your PC won’t boot up all of a sudden. Once your computer doesn’t boot up, you won’t be able to get any work done unless you have a backup PC. It is even worse, if you have your important files on it and you haven’t also set up proper backups. So a dead PC means your files are gone.

I am very sure you must have seen many Windows boot problems fixes, but chances are that you’ll see a fix without reinstalling Windows. However, don’t give up, because there is always a solution to a problem even though it can be difficult. We’ve got a fix and we’ll explain how you can boot into a live Linux installation and save your data, even if you can’t get your Windows to boot.

Note: This fix will only work if you can’t get into Windows, nevertheless your PC will still boot. In case you can’t turn on your PC, can’t see anything on your screen, or maybe you have a dead drive, then you can’t use this method to recover any data from your PC.

What You’ll Need

Even if your Windows PC isn’t working, your data still remain on your hard drive or solid state drive. So to copy the data elsewhere, we’ll have to boot it into an operating system (OS) excluding Windows. Given that Linux is free and easy to install OS, we’ll be using Linux to recover your data. There are never-ending different versions of Linux you could use for this guide. For this guide, we’ll use Ubuntu since it is one of the most popular and easy Linux Distro you can use. You can also use Linux Mint since its popular and similar to Windows as an alternative, however you are free to substitute it for any another Linux Distro if you prefer.

Now you’ll need to create a bootable USB drive. So to create a bootable USB drive, you’ll need three things:

You’ll need flash drive with 4 GB space or more, which you must wipe clean in order to install Linux.

You’ll also need a working computer which you are going to use to set up the bootable USB flash drive with Linux.

Lastly, you’ll need an external drive, an adequately large USB flash drive, or cloud storage space you can copy your data to.

Go ahead and download the Universal USB Installer tool from the Pendrivelinux site to make the process easier for you. Now head to the Ubuntu or Linux Mint download page to download the ISO (disc image) of Ubuntu or Mint. Similar to Windows, you’ll need to choose between the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the OS here. Make sure you the version that is more compatible, however if you are not sure of what to choose, choose the 32-bit very for compatibility.

Once you’ve selected the right version of the Linux distro you want, the select a download mirror on their website. The Ubuntu file size is about 1.40 GB while Linux Mint is 1.7 GB at the time of writing and this may take a while depending on your connection speed.

Step 1: Install Linux on Your Flash Drive

Now that you have everything you need to install Linux you can proceed to the next step. So insert your flash drive into your secondary computer via the USB port. Open the File explorer, and then head to “My Computer” or “This PC”. Then double click on the Drive letter of your flash drive. Your flash drive letter should likely be D:, E:, or F: depending on how many devices you have connected to the PC. 

Then open the Universal USB Installer tool you downloaded.

After opening it, the tool will first of all ask you which version of Linux you want to install. Select Ubuntu or Linux Mint or any other Linux Distro you want to install from the list, and then click on Browse box to open a file dialog where you’ll able to navigate to the folder you downloaded the Ubuntu, Linux Mint or any other Linux Distro ISO.

Now select the flash drive you inserted by its Drive letter. Do not check the “Show all Drives” checkbox, because this will include your internal hard drive in the list. And you don’t want to wipe your internal hard drive.

Then check the checkbox to Format Drive. This will help to wipe clean the flash so as to make Linux installs successfully. Next, you’ll need to add a persistence file. This lets you to save changes made to the OS in between boots. This means it saves all changes and settings you made to the OS. That is to say, without persistence, every time you boot up the OS, it always look as if it’s the first time you are using it and you can’t install any software permanently on it.

Once you are through with that, ensure you double-check your drive letter to not erase the wrong drive. Then click on the “Create” button to begin the process. This will take a while, so wait for a few minutes. Click on the “Close” button once you see “Installation Done, Process is Complete” notification. Then your flash drive is ready to go!

Step 2: Booting from the Flash Drive on the Faulty PC

The next thing we need to do now is to make sure your faulty computer boots from the flash drive. So when you turn on the PC, take note of info like Press F12 to select boot device or Press ESC for boot options. This varies on different computers, so you should try and Google your computer model name and “boot menu” to find it. Most times, the boot menu key is F12, DEL, or Esc. Also, you’ll need to repeatedly hit the right key immediately you turn on your PC until you see the boot menu.

Then use the arrow keys on your keyboard to highlight your flash drive. It will likely be something similar with the drive’s manufacturer. So press Enter to select the flash drive as your boot device, then it will boot into Linux. Note: Running an OS from a flash drive is very slow, so you have to be patient as it loads. After some minutes, you should be able to see the OS welcome screen.
From there, you’ll need to enter some basic information in order to set up the OS. You can also set your preferred username and password.

Step 3: Backup Your Data

All you need to do now is to move your data onto a different medium to save it. Open the file browser on your Linux; it’s usually called Nemo on Mint. You can look for its folder icon on the taskbar at the bottom or left side of the screen. After opening the file browser, head over to left sidebar in the file browser and look for your hard drive under Devices. Your hard drive may likely be the only drive listed here.

In case you see multiple listed, just click on one and check if it has the Program Files, Users, and Windows folders inside it. As long as you can see those folders in the drive, then that’s your internal drive!

To find your files, simply navigate to Users > Username. All your documents, pictures, and videos should be here unless you’ve moved your user folder. Sadly you can’t back up installed programs; however you can copy the AppData folder to save configurations for some software.

You’ll need to move everything to another drive since your hard drive is dead. You probably won’t have enough room to copy your files on Linux flash drive unless your Linux flash drive is huge or you don’t have many files to recover. As a result, you’ll need to connect an external hard drive or another flash drive with huge size to copy everything over.

Of course you can simply use your cloud storage, if you don’t have an extra drive and only need to backup a few files. Just open the default browser, then head over and sign into Dropbox, Google Drive, or any other cloud storage provider and you can simply drag-and-drop files into your cloud storage accounts. This will take some time for everything to upload, so we don’t recommend this if you have dozens of gigabytes to back up.

Once you are done with copying your files either in an external drive or cloud storage account, then you’ve successfully backup your PC! Ensure you learn from this experience and set up a backup plan right now. 

In case your hard drive or motherboard stopped working in the future, then you won’t be able to use the method, which will result in lost data or an expensive and difficult restoration process. In any case, you should just keep your new Linux drive because it can be handy in the future! A friend may need the same help soon.



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