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, 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 or a costly trip to the computer repair store.
Let’s look at the best options for your system health.
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.
Focused entirely on appeasing Windows systems, Hiren’s BootCD contains a wealth of utilities including malware and rootkit detection, antivirus scanning, temporary file cleaners, data and driver backups, hardware scanning, partition scanning, imaging and saving, 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.
Similar to Hiren’s BootCD, UBCD troubleshoots both Windows and Linux systems 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.
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.
You cannot have a bacon-saving recovery disc list without including the grandfather of them all: Knoppix. This Linux Live CD provides a fully functional operating system once loaded onto a malfunctioning system, rather than just providing you a GUI with different system analysis options.
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.
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.
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 operates relatively similarly, though depending on the operating system you may have use a different method to create your disc:
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.
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.
…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.
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!