In this guide I explain how to recover files from a laptop (or desktop PC) with crashed, failed, damaged operating system.

WHEN CAN YOU USE THIS RECOVERY GUIDE?

1. The guide will work if the OS is damaged but the computer hardware still works fine.
2. The guide might work if the hard drive has some minor damage, like a few bad sectors.

PREPARING FOR RECOVERY

For this recovery I’ll be using a Ubuntu CD (Linux OS). Also, you can create a bootable Ubuntu USB flash drive. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a Linux guru for that. The Linux interface will be very similar to Windows OS.

You need another working computer to download and create a bootable CD or USB drive.

1. Download the latest version of Ubuntu OS here. When you click on the download button you’ll start downloading an ISO image.

2. Burn this ISO image on a CD or create a bootable USB stick. It’s explained on the same download page, just scroll a little bit down.

3. Find the target drive where you going to save recovered files. You can use an external hard drive or USB flash drive. The target drive can be formatted with any common Windows file system: FAT, FAT32, NTFS.

DATA RECOVERY PROCESS

STEP 1.
Boot your laptop from the Ubuntu CD or USB.
If the computer keeps trying to boot from the internal hard drive, you’ll have to enter the BIOS setup menu and change the boot order. Set your CD/DVD drive or USB stick as first device in the boot order. Safe changes and restart the computer.

From my experience, Ubuntu OS works fine with most laptop and desktop PC hardware and you shouldn’t have any problem booting it to the desktop. It may not work if your computer hardware is too new.

STEP 2.
The computer will start booting from the CD or USB stick.
Now read carefully!
After some time a welcome screen will pop up. On this screen you can choose your language and choose between two options: Try Ubuntu and Install Ubuntu.
Select Try Ubuntu. The Linux OS will run directly from the CD or USB stick without changing any files on the hard drive.

STEP 3.
Ubuntu OS will continue loading and after a while you’ll boot to the desktop, as it shown on the following picture.

STEP 4.
In order to access the internal hard drive, you click on Places in the top toolbar. You should see your internal hard drive in the drop down menu under the Computer.

STEP 5.
When you click on the internal hard drive a new window will open up. In this window you’ll see all files located on the hard drive.

Files on hard drive

STEP 6.
Now plug in your target drive into the computer.
Another window will pop up. In this window you’ll see files located on the external drive. In my case I have no files on the external drive, that’s why the window is empty.
You can move windows same way you do it in Windows OS. Arrange both windows as you like.

STEP 7.
Finally, drag and drop needed files from the internal hard drive to the external drive.
After the transfer is done, you can unplug the external drive and use it on any other computer.

IF YOU HAVE FAILED HARDWARE

In case if your computer hardware failed, you should try recovery with external USB enclosure.

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37 Comments

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  1. 27
    cj2600 Says:

    @ Iris Goodeyes,

    I have a sony vaio something went wrong all of a sudden screen is black and says operating system not found. What do I do?

    When you get “OS not found” error, most likely it’s one of the following:
    1. The motherboard cannot see the hard drive because of poor connection between the hard drive and motherboard. Try reconnecting the hard drive and test the laptop again.
    2. The hard drive is dead. Listen for the hard drive sounds. Can you hear it spinning?
    3. The hard drive got erased.

  2. 26
    Iris Goodeyes Says:

    I have a sony vaio something went wrong all of a sudden screen is black and says operating system not found. What do I do?

  3. 25
    cj2600 Says:

    @ Martin,

    The backup completed today with the exception of one file, in C:/Windows/Service Profiles/LocalService/AppData/LocalLow/Microsoft/CryptnetURLCache/MetaData , file named 9430…
    which it says is a “special file” and cannot be copied. Any idea why Linux would be unable to copy this to the backup?

    I don’t know why but I wouldn’t worry about this file too much. :)

  4. 24
    Martin Willcocks Says:

    Thanks cj2600. The backup completed today with the exception of one file, in C:/Windows/Service Profiles/LocalService/AppData/LocalLow/Microsoft/CryptnetURLCache/MetaData , file named 9430…
    which it says is a “special file” and cannot be copied. Any idea why Linux would be unable to copy this to the backup?

  5. 23
    cj2600 Says:

    @ Martin Willcocks,

    My question is – does this also backup the Windows registry or is that hidden from the user? If it backs up the registry, where can that be found in the external drive data?

    If you backup entire Windows directory, I think you also backing up registry.
    Registry is not a single file. Registry has many files and I believe they are located at C:\Windows\System32\config\ directory.

  6. 22
    Martin Willcocks Says:

    Thanks for this tutorial, I’m currently at the stage of copying files from the crashed Windows partition of my dual boot Ubuntu/Vista laptop to an external 2TB Seagate USB drive. All the screenshots up through Step 7 worked fine for me. My question is – does this also backup the Windows registry or is that hidden from the user? If it backs up the registry, where can that be found in the external drive data?
    The laptop problem is that it cannot boot to Windows Vista because of a corrupted registry file, but it also will not boot to last known good configuration or any of the other options presented including safe mode.

  7. 21
    Nick Says:

    Hi, is there anyway to recover files from a drive with bitlocker?

  8. 20
    nikki Says:

    I have the ubuntu on a CD and in my laptop. The screen where I can choose to try it or to install it is up, but when I try to select try it a box pops up telling me “/casper/vmlinuz:file not found” and underneath it says NO Texts! What did I do wrong? Help!

  9. 19
    cj2600 Says:

    @ sanjay,

    if windows user have a password than ?

    Shouldn’t matter. Linux can read through the Windows password.

  10. 18
    sanjay Says:

    if windows user have a password than ???????

    pls answer me plssss

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