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Several times I’ve been called upon at a moment’s notice to troubleshoot a misbehaving PC system either at work or at a friend’s or relative’s home. Being the “go to” guy for these sorts of problems is both a curse and a blessing, but I guess that is besides the point.

One tool that I have found to be valuable beyond compare is the Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD). This compilation of software has just about everything you need to diagnose hard to find low level problems, and also some other tools that every PC technician should have available.

It has been around for a long time, but I still know a lot of techs who don’t know about it. Ultimate Boot CD includes memory checkers, CPU stress testers, system information tools, boot managers and tools for hard drives, partitions, password resets, and more. For a full list, check out the UBCD page.

Typically, this is burned onto an ISO and you boot using a CD. But isn’t that so “last year”? Putting it onto a USB Drive makes it much more portable and it can sit side by side with your other portable tech tools 100 Portable Apps for your USB Stick (for Mac and Win) 100 Portable Apps for your USB Stick (for Mac and Win) Read More .

The directions on how to do this are courtesy of pendrivelinux:

  1. Download the Ultimate Boot CD iso file and place it into its own directory
  2. Download the UBCDfix.exe file and run it, extracting into the above folder
  3. From this folder click fixubcd.bat and follow the instructions
  4. Move the contents of the /dir/USBUBCD folder to your USB drive
  5. From your USB drive, run makeboot.bat to make it bootable

That’s it! You now have a bootable USB drive. Any machine you wish to boot with this drive must be set to boot from USB, so this might mean a trip into the boot menu.

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After booting from the drive you’ll see the UBCD menu:

Boot CD on a USB Stick

Some great things I’ve used the UBCD to do:

  • Fixing a system whose boot loader did not install correctly
  • Run Darik’s Boot and Nuke to wipe a system before recycling it
  • Fixed a tricky system freezing problem that was caused by a bad stick of ram
  • Run OEM HD tools to confirm a hard drive was indeed malfunctioning

So give it a shot if you are the type of person who is always called upon to fix people’s PCs!

  1. Windows XP registry cleaners
    December 12, 2009 at 3:12 am

    Thanks for this - I really like making my PC boot up with the USB and have been looking for a tutorial like this for a long time.

  2. karlyn
    August 14, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    my problem is i have a dell c400 (no internal cd drive) running xp. last year something happened & now it just goes to black screen when trying to boot (won't even let me get into safe mode).

    since xp won't let me use usb for booting (making external cd drive unable to use), how can i repair?

    i tried using usb cable to sata/ide to my other laptop & running xp installation to repair, but windows said it can't load to drives attached via usb.

    i thought i saw a tool on makeuseof last year that made xp support usb booting, but i can't find the article anymore...PLEASE HELP! (thank you)

  3. Computerden
    May 28, 2008 at 11:19 am

    quite practical

  4. Michael
    May 17, 2008 at 3:41 am

    I love that you can put it on a thumb drive but unfortunately I have a lot of friends and family members with older computers that may be a little tough to get booting from a USB drive, the bootable CD is a great universal tool and although having it on a thumb drive may be handy having it on a CD is absolutely crucial.

  5. oldhick
    May 16, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    This is pretty old news but not bad. Unfortunately, the one time I could have used this to be helpful, the PC's BIOS wasn't capable of booting from Linux.
    But you can have some fun stealing passwords with this and wreaking havoc.

  6. a
    May 15, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    Very few computers will boot to a usb thumb drive.

  7. Matt M
    May 15, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    Not to mention that as a tech myself, i find waaaay too many users that have computers that don't have a bios that supports booting from USB. They're a lot more common than you might realize. A knoppix live cd with diagnostic tools or a PE cd might be a tad more useful.

  8. Tarek Koudsi
    May 15, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    A practical method, but dude, I would definitely embed more stuff on that stick, OS related and file-system tools are always on demand. Virus and spyware scanners come in handy at times when called for a PC problem.

  9. business
    May 15, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    You are a life saver. Just what I need! You've been Dugged.

  10. fuderyuu
    May 15, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    What I'd really love to have is actually a UBCD4Win on my USB stick.

  11. blaszta
    May 14, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    Do we need this if the UBCD alreay support USB (although experimental)?

    If you wish to try the experimental option of running UBCD from a USB memory stick, you will need to either burn the ISO file to a CD first, or extract the files within the ISO file to your hard disk using a suitable utility. Then, use tools\ubcd2usb\ubcd2usb.bat to write UBCD to your USB memory stick. Note that ubcd2usb.bat will format and erase your entire USB memory stick. Due to its experimental nature, some or all of the UBCD apps may not work even if your machine supports booting from a USB memory stick.

    Take from:

  12. diverdan
    May 14, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    i'm not a fan of ubcd. yeah it has tons of really useful utilities, but i find that there is so many redundant applications and many times much older versions than the current versions.

    i find that in theory, ubcd is a friggin great idea. but in practice, it's really hard for them to keep everything up to date. that is of course if you roll with your own custom rescue cd and hand select what you want on it.

    i much prefer to have a bunch of utilities with me that i know are updated and work well. of course all tested and verified before i work on my client's machines. :-)

    what do you guys think?

    • Dave
      May 14, 2008 at 8:31 pm

      I agree that some of the software packages are not up to date. But, unless you have the skills or time to roll your own, they all work pretty well to do the job. If I have problems with one, usually one of the other ones works well enough to get the job done!

    • Larry
      February 11, 2015 at 5:53 pm

      I agree. UBCD seems to put stuff on there for the sake of having it there. I guess it's a good starting point but I prefer to make my own bootable media with the utils that I absolutely need instead of thumbing through the menus the UBCD has. If this means I have a couple more CD's or USB drives in my kit, so be it.

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