Linux users love to brag about their awesome live CDs, talking about how every Windows user should have an Ubuntu live CD. They make a good point: these CDs allow you to access your computer even when you’re having serious system errors.
Some Windows users, however, aren’t entirely comfortable with learning to use Linux to solve Windows problems. Happily for them, it’s perfectly possible to make the ultimate boot CD for Windows using free tools. You’re going to need a legal copy of Windows XP to do so, of course, but assuming you have that handy all you need to do is follow the simple steps below.
This ultimate Windows boot CD will include everything you need to rescue a busted system, from data recovery software to antivirus scanners. Best of all, the included tools are almost all free to use.
Step 1: Find Or Buy A Windows XP CD
The first thing you’re going to need is a Windows XP CD. Ideally this CD will be a Service Pack 2 disk, though some Service Pack 1 disks might work. Anything older than that won’t work. It’s also worth noting that some OEM CDs, which are what usually come with new computers, won’t work. The idea here is to have a retail disk, typically purchased separately from your computer.
Please don’t discuss anything related to pirating Windows XP in the comments below; it will be removed.
Once you’ve got your CD, insert it into your drive, ignoring any auto-prompts. Working from an ISO? Extract all files, using 7-Zip or any other program that can unarchive ISO files.
Step 2: Install UBCD4Win
This step is simple; just download UBCD4WIN and install it. The download is pretty big, so expect to wait a while if your connection is slow. The installation process is pretty standard; just follow the prompts.
UBCD4WIN is a piece of software capable of taking the data from a Windows XP CD and creating a Live environment with it. Drivers and a lot of software can easily be added to the mix, as you’ll see in the next step.
Note that this software is Windows only, so Linux and Mac users cannot use it without access to a Windows machine. Sorry!
Step 3: Set Up Your CD
Now we get to the fun part. Start up UBCD4WIN and you’ll see the main interface:
Point the “Source” path to your Windows installation files. If you’re using a CD, this is simply your CD drive. If you extracted files from an ISO, this is the folder where the files are now.
Use “Custom” if you have any additional files you want to add to the CD. Read more about that here but be warned: it’s kind of geeky.
Be sure to check out the “Plugins” button at the bottom of the window. Here you can configure which additional applications will and will not be included on the CD.
These files range from antivirus scanners to disk repair tools, so make sure you go through this list. Want to know what you could include? Here’s a complete list.
Once you’re ready to go, feel free to click “Build“. This will start the process, and ask you to agree with Window’s EULA:
Assuming there are no errors with the process, your ISO will be created. Feel free to try it out using Virtualbox to make sure everything worked properly.
Step 4: Burn Your ISO
Want to burn your ISO to a disk? Check out this list of free alternatives to Nero to find the best tool for the job. I highly recommmend CDBurnerXP.
Step 5: Boot Your ISO
Only one step left: booting from your ultimate boot CD. Insert the CD into your computer, then restart the system. Now you need to launch the boot options. How to do this varies depending on your computer; on a Dell, for example, you press F8. Don’t panic; there are typically on-screen instructions during startup, and you can always consult your manual if you get stuck.
Once you get the CD to boot you’re in! You’ll have a bootable Windows environment featuring a plethora of free tools:
Did this process work for you? Can you think of uses for this amazing toolset? Leave your comments below, and feel free to point us towards better tools for the job.