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Every Windows user should be aware of at least one bacon-saving, data-recovering system restore disk. If your computer starts behaving strangely, won’t boot, produces error messages or straight-up BSODs Windows 8 Crashing? How to Easily Troubleshoot Blue Screen & Other Issues Windows 8 Crashing? How to Easily Troubleshoot Blue Screen & Other Issues Windows 8 isn't perfect. That said, most blue screens and application crashes aren't Windows' fault. Our tips will help you identify exactly what's wrong with your PC and fix it. Read More , then you’ll need access to one of these rescue discs. They help isolate and identify errors and ultimately can be the difference between managing your system error at home 4 Ways To Factory Reset Your Windows Computer 4 Ways To Factory Reset Your Windows Computer A reset to factory conditions is the quickest and easiest way to return to normal. Not only does it get your computer clean, it will also run at optimal performance. Read More or a costly trip to the computer repair store.

Let’s look at the best options for your system health.

Hiren’s BootCD

Probably the single best restore discs to have ever graced a failing system. Any IT technician or habitual technology tinkerer will have come across Hiren’s BootCD and if so would sing its praises.

Hirens BootCD

Focused entirely on appeasing Windows systems, Hiren’s BootCD contains a wealth of utilities Hiren's Boot CD - The All-In-One Boot CD For Every Need Hiren's Boot CD - The All-In-One Boot CD For Every Need Read More including malware and rootkit detection, antivirus scanning, temporary file cleaners, data and driver backups, hardware scanning, partition scanning, imaging and saving How To Shrink & Extend Volumes Or Partitions in Windows 7 How To Shrink & Extend Volumes Or Partitions in Windows 7 In Windows 7 and Windows Vista, resizing your volumes or re-partitioning your hard drive has become a lot easier than in previous Windows versions. However, there are still a few pitfalls that will require you... Read More , and password crackers. It can even reflash your BIOS or wipe your CMOS if required.

Hiren’s BootCD is completely free. We recommend always keeping a copy nearby.

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The Ultimate Boot CD

Similar to Hiren’s BootCD, UBCD troubleshoots both Windows and Linux systems How To Create The Ultimate Boot CD For Windows How To Create The Ultimate Boot CD For Windows Read More with a massive range of helpful utilities. It is useful up and down the system error board with drive cloning and data recovering tools, hardware testing, partition scanning and a host of other system repair tools.

Ultimate BootCD

UBCD aims to “consolidate as many diagnostic tools as possible into one bootable CD” – something the makers have come very close to achieving.

UBCD is completely free for download, so be wary of any site attempting to take payment for a download.

Knoppix

You cannot have a bacon-saving recovery disc list without including the grandfather of them all: Knoppix. This Linux Live CD Linux Live USB Creator: Easily Boot Linux From Your Flash Drive Linux Live USB Creator: Easily Boot Linux From Your Flash Drive Read More provides a fully functional operating system once loaded onto a malfunctioning system, rather than just providing you a GUI with different system analysis options.

Knoppix 6.01

The Knoppix operating system comes with some 1,000 software packages for you to scan through, including troubleshooting, hardware analysis, data-recovery and cloning tools alongside browsers, image-manipulation tools and media players.

There is also a DVD version of Knoppix known as “Maxi”, bundling over 2,600 different pieces of software in a 4.7GB package. Most of the software included in both Knoppix packages is either free or open-source though there are some proprietary software packages included.

DriveDroid

Whilst not strictly a bootable disc, DriveDroid for Android is a ridiculously useful system restore tool to keep in your pocket. Those Android users with a rooted device can make use of DriveDroid’s massive selection of Linux distros, both big and small, in an app that boots as a USB disc-drive.

DriveDroid

Handy for pocket based recovery without optical media, or if you just like carrying a massive amount of Linux distros around ready for deployment at any moment.

Native Windows Recovery Disc

There is always the classic, built-in Windows recovery disc. Each Windows system recovery disc How To Restore, Refresh, or Reset Your Windows 8 Installation How To Restore, Refresh, or Reset Your Windows 8 Installation In addition to the standard System Restore feature, Windows 8 has features for "refreshing" and "resetting" your PC. Think of these as ways of quickly re-installing Windows -- either keeping your personal files or deleting... Read More operates relatively similarly, though depending on the operating system you may have use a different method to create your disc:

Windows System Recovery Options

Honourable Mentions

The Trinity Rescue Kit

The Trinity Rescue Kit is specifically designed with common Windows and Linux issues in mind. Creator, Tom Kerremans, authored the Live CD to revitalise ailing systems using a range of virus and malware scanners, password recovery tools, partition recovery tools and drive cloning utilities.

Trinity Rescue

TRK doesn’t have the massive range of HBCD or UBCD, but is still extremely useful to have a copy of. Best of all, like many of the other resources on this list, its completely free, so grab a copy.

SystemRescueCD

…It does exactly what it says on the disc…

But seriously, it does. SystemRescueCD is a Linux-based rescue disc designed to troubleshoot damaged Windows and Linux based systems. It comes packed with anti-virus, malware and rootkit tools, partition management and cloning, and is quite handy for network troubleshooting and diagnostics. It also includes a handy disc burner, so you can continue to burn whilst SystemRescueCD does its thing.

System RescueCD

It can be used as a bootable disc or USB and, like all the best things in life, is completely free. Many IT technicians reach for SystemRescueCD following a system crash and we understand why. Another must have for your CD stack.

One of these discs will be guaranteed to save your system in the future and if not yours, it will come in handy when you play IT specialist for your continually complaining family and friends.

Which of these recovery discs do you reach for when things go wrong? How many times have they saved your bacon? Let us know below!

Image Credits: Rescue usb flash Via Shutterstock, Knoppix via Wikimedia Commons

  1. Friday
    June 26, 2016 at 9:22 am

    Can anyone suggest the best one for repairing the boot record of a Windows 2012 server?

  2. Phil
    May 30, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    Falcon UBCD contain Hiren Boot and a lot more.
    6.1 is working right.

    If you want to boot on modern UEFI machines, you need to use Easy2Boot, SARDU and such.

    That's the main problem nowadays with boot rescue : UEFI

    Thanks about DriveDroid, didn't known it ;)

    • Gavin Phillips
      June 4, 2016 at 5:37 pm

      Hey Phil,

      Great suggestion. I'm building quite the list of boot discs!

      Glad to hear you'll give DriveDroid a chance, it certainly helps when you're out and about.

      Thanks for reading!

  3. noname
    May 4, 2016 at 8:40 pm

    My picks are,
    Colnezilla for linux and Malcolm reflect for windows.

    • Gavin Phillips
      June 4, 2016 at 5:39 pm

      Hey noname,

      I assume you mean Macrium Reflect for Windows, and that you've been scuppered by auto-correct! It is a good solution, but I think there other completely free options that offer the same functionality as the premium Macrium versions.

      Thanks for reading!

      • Glenn
        August 17, 2016 at 2:04 pm

        Mind telling us a few? I havent found a Macrium Pro replacement for free. All seem to be lacking I love the ability to mount the Image and pull files for my clients.

  4. michael haiden
    February 17, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    i need something that will work on windows 10 hirens will not

    • Gavin Phillips
      June 4, 2016 at 5:40 pm

      Hi Michael,

      I know it was a long time ago, but did you solve your problem?

      Cheers

      • michael haiden
        June 4, 2016 at 5:46 pm

        Nope

      • michael haiden
        June 4, 2016 at 5:48 pm

        Using laptop desktop dead in the water

        • Gavin Phillips
          June 4, 2016 at 6:06 pm

          Hi Michael,

          Do you know what your W10 problem is or are you still trying to diagnose? I'm out for dinner, but can help on my return!

        • Gavin Phillips
          June 5, 2016 at 7:10 pm

          Hey Michael,

          Any idea what is actually up with your desktop? I could offer some more direct help that way!

          Cheers

        • michael haiden
          June 6, 2016 at 2:11 pm

          Gavin I wish I knew it will not boot into nothing and I mean safe mode mode or bios I think I need to bite the bullet and order system disc nice system go envy gamer machine

  5. Dr Abu Galib
    January 10, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    Does the Hiren boot CD and Knoppix have the same functionalities of Kaspersky/Comodo/ Antimalware rescue disk. Antimalware/anti-virus/spyware/trojans/ets, all other pc bases security, operational and data threats?
    Thanks,
    Dr A Galib

  6. Marcus HK Warfield
    September 13, 2015 at 7:10 am

    Should also mention the app called "yumi" which can bundle all of these into a nice bootable USB package (save Drivedroid since it's an android app). I have most of the mentioned bootdiscs on it plus a bootable windows 8.1se (a custom one I download I forget from/by who) that has portableapps.com installed with a wealthy bit of tools and a copy of an AIO Windows 10 install for quick reinstalls and troubleshooting. Just throwing out these ideas for those who want ultimate kits like I do.

    • Lanny
      May 18, 2016 at 11:35 pm

      Hi Marcus. Do you have a copy of your compiled disk available for download anywhere?

    • mace
      May 23, 2016 at 4:02 pm

      I second Lanny, do you have a copy of your ultimate online?

  7. James Hanson
    September 4, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    I've been using rollback rx home edition it's a freeware program but it functions like windows system restore. I installed a windows update (how all bad days start) and the computer restarted but it got held up in a BSOD. So I used rollback to go to a point i set before the updates and got back no problem.

    This list is solid I've tried a few of these but rollback rx should be on this list!

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 5, 2015 at 5:52 am

      Thanks for the recommendation, James! We recognize that not all software is for everyone and a good alternative is always welcome. Hopefully some readers find your tip useful :)

  8. jrandom421
    March 3, 2015 at 10:55 pm

    If your hard drive is encrypted by Bitlocker, the native Windows Recovery Disks are your only options.

  9. DieSse
    January 19, 2015 at 11:00 pm

    What you really need is a system image backup - then you can re- install your complete system, data and programs, as it was (when you made the backup. With a USB3 or Gigabit Lan external drive, a full system image takes a relatively short time. Combine that with a daily data backup and never be afraid of corruption or even hardware failure ever again.

    Full marks for EASEUS Todo Backup free to do this.

    • Gavin
      January 28, 2015 at 12:52 pm

      I agree. Taking an entire system image is an essential data maintenance tool that each computer user should do. Unfortunately, not enough do! I guess that's why we have these discs :D

  10. Kai M.
    January 19, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    Another one that I like that is geared specifically at both system recovery and malware removal is Kaspersky's Rescue Disk. This bootable, Linux based system can both allow you to browse and transfer files from your Windows partition and get rid of viruses that don't allow your computer to boot normally (such as rootkits or ransomware).

  11. Prasa
    January 18, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    Really wonderful, handy and must-have tools. Thanks for sharing :)

    • Gavin
      January 19, 2015 at 12:07 pm

      Hi Prasa,

      No problem - thanks for reading!

  12. Shawn Rosvold
    January 17, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    Hi. Thanks for this. I'm trying to load Hiren's to a USB rive, but I can't seem to get it to work. Any suggestions?

    • Gavin
      January 17, 2015 at 4:26 pm

      Hi Shawn. On mobile, so cannot elaborate too much, but this tutorial should help you:

      http://www.hiren.info/pages/bootcd-on-usb-disk

      It's by the creator of HBCD so should do you fine.

      Thank's for reading and good luck!

  13. ReadandShare
    January 17, 2015 at 12:40 am

    It works now. Maybe it was just me... Thanks, Tina.

    • Gavin
      January 17, 2015 at 4:25 pm

      Sorry, didn't see this comment!

  14. ReadandShare
    January 16, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    @Gavin:

    Your 'Windows 7 Recovery Disc' link returns an error message.

    • Tina
      January 16, 2015 at 8:29 pm

      Thanks for the heads-up! Works for me and doesn't seem like anyone changed the link in the meantime. Maybe the website was down?

    • Gavin
      January 17, 2015 at 4:24 pm

      Hi. Appears to be working for me, too. Thank you for checking the links!

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