Tip: Recover your data before you reformat

By jobeard ยท 4 replies
Apr 26, 2007
  1. Your system will not boot and you have precious files to save!

    You mount your OEM Recovery disk, and it clearly states:
    YOUR HD WILL BE FORMATED and then restored to it's original condition


    Assuming the HD is not trashed and the only problem is a corrupt Windows
    file, it is possible to offload those precious files before you reformat and load
    a new OS.

    Here's what I did to offload my accounting, music and pictures from our Fall European trip.

    First, I got a bootable CD and verified that the HD was still readable and my files were accessible.
    If not, awe shucks -- just reformat or replace the HD and start over.

    Then I purchased a copy of Knoppix 5.1.1 from Linux Central at
    for 3.95 + 5.00 shipping via snail-mail -- well worth the wait!

    Now I attached my external USB 2.0 HD to the downed system, inserted the
    Knoppix Cd and powered up the system -- hit your Fx key to select your CD boot.

    When the splash screen appears, just hit enter and let it configure a memory RAM disk.
    You will end up with,
    Your HD mounted as HDA1 and
    Your USB hd as SDA1​
    both on your desktop as icons and you have a GUI interface to a Linux system.

    You will also get a window titled 'Knoppix 5.1.x - Knoqueror; JUST CLOSE IT -- it's advertising :)

    Click on the Icon for the Hard Disk{hda1} to mount your system's hd
    that will not boot. You get a window, but you don't want it just yet; just
    close it -- trust me.
    Click the Icon for the Hard Disk {sda1} for your USB drive and just
    close that window too.

    Now here's the only tricky part; your HDs are all mounted READ-ONLY and we
    need to make the USB drive READ-WRITE.

    >>> click on the 6th icon from the left at the bottom of the screen which
    looks like a PC Monitor; this will give a command line interface to assist you
    with the next three tasks:

    click the Settings menu->pull down to Font->select shrink font​

    1)>>>switch to root; just type
    and hit enter. the command prompt will change to %root@Knoppix: .....
    then enter
    cd /
    followed by

    The last line is your USB HD and shows up something like:
    /dev/sda1 on /media/sda1 type vfat (ro,nosuid,....)

    We need the ro to become rw! here's how.

    2)>>> we will edit a memory only file using the Linux 'vi' command. each line that follows is a shell command or a vi command.
    the notation <esc> is to be understood as
    hit the escape key once
    <sp> means the space key
    and <ret> means hit the return key​
    so here we go:
    vi<sp>/etc/fstab <ret>​
    several lines appear and we want that line which starts with
    use the down-arrow key to move the cursor to that line
    hit the letter 'w' slowly until the cursor is in front of
    (if you go too far right, just <backspace>)
    and then enter exactly
    your cursor will be on the comma following the rw you inserted!
    you save this edit by entering exactly
    prove you did it correctly by entering
    you will see the 'rw,noauto,.....' is present on the last line :)

    3)>>>we need to remount the USB drive with the new RW option thusly:
    umount <sp> /dev/sda1​
    followed by
    mount <sp> /dev/sda1​
    and prove it's rw with a plain
    Notice the (rw,noauto,....) on /dev/sda1
    Get the GUI window for it with a single click on {sda}

    Use the Edit Menu-->pull down to Create New-->Folder
    and just use _JUNK_ and click ok
    {the folder is created or you get an error}

    >>>> just leave the Shell- Konsole window alone (click the minimize) and use the
    GUI interface for the remainder of our work

    >>> Get another GUI window for your downed system's HD
    There are some buttons under the Menus: directly under Settings is a TreeView button
    click on it to get a Windows styled Detail list of names, size, types, dates

    IF you were diligent in saving your files in your Windows Profile area
    then they are all located at
    Documents and Settings/$yourlogin/
    [btw: click only once to open a directory ]
    and they're under My Documents
    {but I structure mine uniquely too}
    so for each FOLDER you want saved on the USB HD
    right-click on the SOURCE file or folder-->pull down to COPY TO
    pull down to Browse
    scroll UP to MEDIA and click
    click on SDA1​
    This is then a TreeView of the external USB HD.
    find a locaton for the copy OR create a new folder with the
    button at the bottom of the Select Folder window.
    click OK and the data will start to flow :)

    >>>when you have saved everything you want to the USB drive,
    reopen the Shell-Konsole window with a single click on that name
    where the Windows Task Bar would have been -- then enter
    in the terminal window and the system will cleanup, eject the CD
    and dismount your USB drive.

    Your data is now safe on the External USB drive and you can reload the OS of your choice.
  2. Tmagic650

    Tmagic650 TS Ambassador Posts: 17,244   +234

    Microsoft Live One Care does this automatically. Just attach your USB backup drive and Live One Care will back up your system for you, and keep the backup current. I actually was able to recover some documents sucessfully today
  3. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Topic Starter Posts: 11,138   +985

    I think you missed the point -- the system was not bootable and as yet
    has no backups to restore. This technique allows you to recover files
    from the HD without the assistance of any MS software. Too many times
    I've seen users loose everything due to circumstances where the only choice
    left was a reformat/reinstall.

    You bet I'm going to get my Slipstream project completed immediately :)
  4. jeep10x12

    jeep10x12 TS Rookie

    will try knoppix

    1st i tried spotmau professional 2008,( wont boot ), spotmau email support said to try XP cd recovery console. I viewed files on LAPTOP that wont boot. now XP cd wont let me back in recoery console (admin password). 2nd i ordered KNOPPIX cd. Next i purchased 500gb ext. hd. NOW how many partitions should i make & how large?
  5. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Topic Starter Posts: 11,138   +985

    The ext HD will usually come preformatted ( it is USB isn't it?). Just plug it in before booting the Knoppix CD and follow the outline.
Topic Status:
Not open for further replies.

Similar Topics

Add your comment to this article

You need to be a member to leave a comment. Join thousands of tech enthusiasts and participate.
TechSpot Account You may also...