Another article here describes how to use Puppy Linux for recovering data from hard disks that work well and have no major file system errors. But it is much more difficult to get your files back after permanently deleting (erasing without moving to Recycle Bin first) these or from damaged/deleted partition or from a hard disk with bad sectors.
That's why I've put together the free www.winhelp.us Data Recovery CD/USB. It is a bootable Windows Preinstallation Environment (PE) built with Ultimate Boot CD for Windows (aka UBCD4Win) and based on the good old Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2. The CD or USB drive cannot be used to install Windows XP because many important system files are missing and there is no product key on it, so it is no piracy. It has no network support, either.
This CD/USB also comes in handy when your PC manufacturer has included a customized Windows installation DVD that deletes everything on hard disk and then completely restores the computer to factory state. You should first copy your documents to an external media and proceed with the recovery after this.
By the way, did you know you can legally get replacement discs from major computer manufacturers even if you lost the Windows installation/computer recovery discs that were included with your PC?
Most of the recovery tools are free for home use only, so you should not use the CD/USB for business purposes. You also take the full responsibility for your actions and I cannot be held liable for any damage that is caused by using the Data Recovery CD/USB. I do not provide any other support than the basic usage articles on www.winhelp.us. You can still get some positive results using comments, though.
The CD version comes as an ISO file, USB version comes as an IMA file.
Basic tutorials about using the included programs and Data Recovery CD/USB are here:
- Check computer memory with Memtest86+
- Basics of Data Recovery CD
- Check Disks with chkdsk
- Recover partitions with Find And Mount
- Manage partitions with EaseUS Partition Master
- Duplicate disks with Raw Copy
- Recover files and folders with Unstoppable Copier
- Undelete files with Recuva
- Reset Windows passwords with Offline Password Editor (not yet available on USB version of Data Recovery CD)
CD version can be downloaded here
USB version can be downloaded here
The minimum requirements for using www.winhelp.us Data Recovery CD/USB are as follows:
- Pentium 233-megahertz (MHz) processor
- At least 128 megabytes (MB) of RAM
- CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive with support for bootable CD-s (for CD version only)
To recover files from a hard disk, the disk must be able to power on and be accessible via its interface. Data from bad (unreadable) sectors may or may not be recoverable. The disks and partitions must not be encrypted (for example, with BitLocker or TrueCrypt). Instructions on decrypting TrueCrypt drives are available in this article.
You must also have a USB flash drive or external hard drive with sufficient free space for the files and folders you want to recover.
- Your computer is unable to boot to Windows in normal and Safe modes.
Cause: File system is probably messed up because of power loss or forceful reboot.
Solution: Check Disks with chkdsk (use option 2).
- Your computer's hard drive contains unreadable (bad) sectors and Windows does not start or stops responding because of this.
Solution 1: if you have a replacement hard disk, use Raw Copy to clone contents of bad drive to the replacement drive.
Solution 2: if you do not have a replacement hard disk or the bad disk has too much unreadable data for cloning the disk, recover your important files using Unstoppable Copier to an external drive (hard disk or USB stick).
- You accidentally deleted an important file or folder and it is not available in Recycle Bin.
Solution: Use Recuva for undeleting.
- You cannot access a drive or partition and Windows suggests formatting it first ("You need to format the disk in drive <drive letter> before you can use it"), or you accidentally deleted a partition/volume in Disk Management.
Solution: use Partition Find And Mount to locate and recover contents of broken and deleted partitions/volumes.
- 7-zip - for file compression and decompression
- EaseUS Partition Master - for partition management, including resizing, merging and recovery
- Memtest86+ - for testing memory modules
- Offline Windows Password & Registry Editor - for resetting forgotten Windows passwords, unlocking and promoting accounts (not available on USB version of Data Recovery CD)
- Partition Find and Mount - for recovering files and folders from deleted partitions
- Piriform Recuva - for undeleting files
- Roadkil's Raw Copy - for disk and partition cloning
- Roadkil's Unstoppable Copier - for recovering files from physically damaged hard disks
To support newest hard disks and disk controllers, Mass Storage driver pack from DriverPacks.net is included.
In the CD or USB version download page at Ge.tt, click the Download link.
Click Open in Internet Explorer 8 File Download dialog or Internet Explorer 9 Notification Bar.
After download is complete, Windows will open it with Compressed Folders program unless you have some other file compression program (such as 7-zip, WinZip, WinRAR) installed.
In Windows Vista, 7 and 8, click the Extract all files button on toolbar or Ribbon.
In Windows XP, the Extract all files command is in Common Tasks Pane on the left. If you have disabled Common Tasks, use the Extract command in File menu.
Windows Vista, 7 and 8 users should click Extract and all files will be extracted to a new sub-folder in your Documents folder. The new folder will open automatically after this.
In Windows XP, extracting the compressed files includes many more steps.
First, Compressed (zipped) Folders Extraction Wizard appears with Welcome page. Click Next.
In the Select a Destination page, click Browse to select a better destination folder. By default, the not-so-wise wizard wants to extract all files into Temporary Internet Files folder.
Select a destination dialog opens. Click OK to extract the files into My Documents folder.
Back in the previous page, click Next.
Finally, click Finish. The new folder will open automatically after this.
Windows XP and Vista users might need to Install CDBurnerXP first if they have no program capable of creating discs from ISO images installed.
If you need instructions for bootable USB version instead, click here.
In Windows XP, Vista and 7, double-click the DataRecovery-<version number>.iso file to open it with CDBurnerXP or Windows Disc Image Burner. In Windows 8, right-click the file and select Burn disc image.
Select the lowest possible writing speed from the combo box to the right of Target device combo box. Then enable the Verify data after burning option. Finally, click Burn disc.
If you inserted a CD-RW with some files already written on it, CDBurnerXP will offer to erase the whole disc. Make sure you do not have anything important on the disc and click Yes.
Stick with the defaults and click Erase.
After burning and verifying has successfully completed, click Close to exit CDBurnerXP.
Windows 7 and 8 include Disc Image Burner program that you can use for burning ISO disc images to CD-s and DVD-s. Click to check the Verify disc after burning box.
If you inserted a CD-RW with some files already written on it, Windows Disc Image Burner will ask whether you want to erase the whole disc contents or not. Make sure you do not have anything important on the disc and click Yes.
The disc burning will start. Disc Image Burner will notify you with "The disc image has been successfully burned to disc" message in Status box after the process is complete. The disc will be ejected after this. Click Close.
Next, verify that your computer is set to boot from CD/DVD drive.
First, you'll need an empty USB flash drive (do not use USB hard disks!) that is at least 512 MB (megabytes) of size. Larger drives are supported, so a 1-2 GB (gigabytes) drive is enough. Please note that the larger the drive, the longer it takes to create the bootable USB Data Recovery disk. Generally, do not use drives larger than 4 gigabytes.
It is recommended to reformat the USB drive first to ensure everything works correctly and no custom boot loaders interfere with the correct boot process. Click Restore device defaults and then click Start.
If you need instructions for bootable CD version instead, click here.
We'll use WinImage for creating the bootable Data Recovery USB drive from the downloaded .IMA file. WinImage is sadly shareware, but it has a free trial period of 30 days. If you know any free alternatives that are capable of writing .IMA files, please let me know in the comments.Click here to show/hide instructions on installing WinImage
First, download WinImageby clicking the latest version in the list.
After downloading is complete, launch the file. This will open WinImage Setup Wizard. Click Next.
In the Registration page, click Next again.
Click I accept the License Agreement and then click Next.
Default destination folder is fine, click Next.
You can clear the Install a shortcut to WinImage on your desktop option first. Then click Next again.
Click the final Next button.
After WinImage has been installed, click Finish.
Make sure your USB drive is connected and it has at least 512 MB (megabytes) of total space. To avoid possible drive selection errors and data loss, remove all other USB flash drives safely first.
Launch WinImage from Start menu and click OK in the evaluation dialog.
Use keyboard shortcut Ctrl+O, or open File menu and click Open.
Locate the downloaded and extracted .IMA file and click Open in the standard Windows Browse dialog.
Click OK in the Select the partition to connect to dialog. This is the partition on the downloaded .IMA file, not on your USB drive.
A list of files and folders in the image file will be displayed. Next, open Disk menu and click Use removable disk <drive letter>:. Make sure you select the correct destination USB flash drive here - this is the drive that will become the bootable Data Recovery disk!
Click the Write disk button on toolbar.
In case your USB drive is larger than 512 megabytes (or contains data), WinImage displays an error dialog. This means that the image will be correctly written to the flash drive, but expanded to fill the whole space. It is recommended to use flash drives up to 4 gigabytes in size.
Double-check you selected the correct disk and click Yes to start the disk imaging process.
The Resize image file dialog opens. Please wait until the process is complete and the dialog disappears.
After the dialog disappears, the bootable USB Data Recovery disk is ready. You can close WinImage (Alt+F4) and boot your computer from the disk. Verify that your computer is set to boot from USB drive.
If your computer displays a blinking cursor instead of Data Recovery menu, you should format the USB disk first and then reimage it using WinImage.
Version 0.9 - initial release (2011-12-12)
- 7-zip 4.65
- DriverPacks.net Mass Storage 11.11
- EaseUS Partition Master Home Edition 9.1.0
- Memtest86+ 4.20
- Offline Windows Password & Registry Editor 110511
- Partition Find and Mount 2.31
- Piriform Recuva 1.42
- Roadkil's Raw Copy 1.2
- Roadkil's Unstoppable Copier 5.2