Ok, so your computer crashed. You know one way out: reformatting the hard disk – but you don’t like it. So what can be done? If your data is really important, and you are prepared to pay some hard bucks getting it back, talk to a professional. Period.
Still here, ok – so your data is important, but you want to do what you can, yourself. I will discuss in the blogpost some tools that can help.
One of the best recovery tools, that has helped me as well, is: Emergency Boot CD (EBCD). The original site seems to be no longer active, and it hasn’t been updated since 2004, but its still a great tool. Look for it here, or here, or Google search for it.
With this, you can recover deleted files, or those lost by formatting. You can fix master boot record. It will allow you to boot from a specific partition, even if its being shown ‘non-system’ otherwise. Once you have the system up through EBCD, on XP you can run the ‘bootok.exe’ command, or ‘fixmbr.exe’ to fix any issues, its available in /windows/system32.
EBCD includes Windows Password Wizard, which can be used to restore access to your PC when you forgot the password for Windows user account.
The next option I am going to talk about is “Bart’s Preinstalled environment bootable live CD” (BartPE). However, using this is not just a matter of downloading an ISO and burning a CD, as it was for the EBCD. You will need to create the CD from your Windows XP CD. The instructions are on the BartPE website. One you have the CD ready, you can boot off the CD into a live Windows XP environment with a lot of tools available. You can even access NTFS drives. See where you can get with this. Again, once you have the system booted, try running bootok.exe as I suggested above.
Another option, if you cannot/do-not-want-to get the BartPE built, is a Knoppix Live CD. This will boot your computer with Linux OS, which is not very difficult to use given Windows knowledge. However, other than getting your computer running, this will not do much more to fix your problem.
The last recovery tool I am going to talk about is System rescue disk. This one offers the GParted tool, which is a disk partition management tool (similar to FDISK) but can resize partitions without loosing data.
If you are unable to download/lay your hands on one of these CDs, I can have them shipped out to you for a fee (except, of course the BartPE).