Tux, as originally drawn by Larry Ewing

Image via Wikipedia

One of the worst things that can happen to you and your computer is your Operating System not booting up when you switch your computer on. Panic ensues as you realise that you have tons of information on the hard drive that you desperately need including all those family pictures. And guess what? You have never backed up in your life.

So what do you do after the panic has subsided and the sadness has taken over? Well there are actually some ways in which you can take all that important information off that hard drive, and if the drive is no longer working then you still might be able to get what you want.

If the computer powers up but it won’t load the operating system and instead you get error messages then this workaround could be your salvation.

Don’t Despair…Yet

One of the ways you can try is by using a copy of a free program like Knoppix. Knoppix is Linux based and doesn’t need to be installed on your computer like Windows does. You can boot Knoppix from a CD or DVD and once you have access to the desktop recover that info onto media like a CD or DVD, USB stick or even another hard drive.

Knoppix, What’s that?

Well Knoppix, as mentioned earlier is Linux based and Open Source which means anyone is free to download and use the software. You can even make changes to the software to make it even better. It runs from either a CD or DVD and comes packed with lots of other Open Source software like Open Office, Mozilla and MySQL being just a few. No matter how experienced you are with computers you can be assured that Knoppix is easy to use and comes with user guides that are simple to understand. There are lots of websites and Wiki’s out there that will also help you should the worst happen and you don’t understand something.

CD or DVD, Which One for You?

That really depends on you the user. You have the choice of downloading both versions on the website. The DVD version comes with more free Open Source products for you to try so if you are a software freak then that choice could be for you. But whichever choice you make both will do the same thing and that is to access the hard drive with all that important information on.

You Have the Disc, Now What?

So you have the disk now what do you do? Well it’s really simple, put the disk into your CD/DVD rom and close the tray. You will want to store the information on something when you get into the hard drive so plug in a USB stick so you can transfer everything over to that. After that switch off the computer then back on again.

Patience is a Virtue

Once the pc is switched back on it will automatically find the CD/DVD and ask you if you want to boot into Linux. Press Enter as asked then sit back and wait.

Patience is a virtue and none more so when booting up from software like Knoppix so be patient as it finds the USB stick then installs the installation files needed to boot up onto a virtual RAM drive.

Once it has booted up into Knoppix you will find your drive on the desktop along with the USB stick. Now you will have to make the USB stick writeable so you can transfer all the files across to it. Right click on the read/write mode and make it writable. Then copy the files you need to the USB stick and when satisfied close the windows down. To log out of Knoppix right click on the desktop and select Log Out and then follow any instructions that come up.

What can go Wrong?

Sometimes the best laid plans won’t always come into effect and something goes wrong like the computer doesn’t read the CD when booting up.

Question. When you boot up your computer it doesn’t read the CD/DVD.

Answer. Well that would be because the computer is booting from the hard drive first when it should be the CD/DVD. You will have to get your hands dirty with this and go into the BIOS (Basic Input/output System.) To do that when the computer starts you will have to usually press the F2 or F10 key, sometimes you will have to press the Del key but computers are all different. If you are unsure look at the screen when it powers up, usually in the left hand corner it will tell you. Once you are inside the BIOS you will have to navigate to the page that allows you to change the order of booting and change the setting from hard drive or HD0 to CD/DVD drive. Once you have changed the order so that the CD/DVD is the first booting device save the settings and reboot.

Please, at this stage do not change any other of the settings in the BIOS otherwise you could end up with your computer either not booting or having problems when it does.

Simple Isn’t It?

So there you have it. A once inaccessible hard drive can be accessed via a piece of software which is Open Source and freely available.

One thing does stick out though in these circumstances and that is backing up. If you were to back up the hard drive on a regular basis then you wouldn’t need to go through this. So before your hard drive says goodnight Vienna why not backup now?

There is other Open Source software you can try including Ubuntu which basically does the same. Even if you don’t have problems software like Linux can be used instead of the usual Windows operating system. Go ahead and play around, you won’t break anything. Honestly!

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