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Out of all the tools at a technician’s disposal, one is the most important. Inside my technician’s toolkit 10 Cheap Things to Carry Around in Your Tech Toolkit 10 Cheap Things to Carry Around in Your Tech Toolkit Do you repair computers? If you do, there's a lot of household supplies you can throw in your "computer repair" bag and cheaply replace otherwise expensive chemicals and tools. For example, you can swap expensive... Read More  I keep a USB flash drive loaded with the most amazing tools on the planet: my PC repair toolkit.

Three tools that I have found invaluable are the Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD), PartedMagic, and All in One System Rescue Toolkit (AiO-SRT). These three programs can resolve a wide range of Windows software issues The 50 Cool Uses for Live CDs The 50 Cool Uses for Live CDs This Live CD how-to guide outlines just a few of the many uses live CDs can offer, and is a great resource for live CD beginners and enthusiasts alike. Read More . On top of that, the toolkits provide powerful hardware troubleshooting tools.

Creating a Boot CD or USB Live Disk

Live USBs can boot in place of the operating system (OS). This method bypasses software problems that prevent your computer from starting. So if you’re trying to rescue important data or diagnose troublesome hardware, this method circumnavigates many pitfalls that would otherwise prevent your OS from loading.

Most technicians carry around a USB drive that can boot a toolkit. Typically, an image of the toolkit is burned onto a USB drive using an imaging program, like UNETBOOTIN. Other programs can create live USBs, such as Linux Live USB Creator or Live USB. You can even create bootable CDs, known as live CDs, using the same techniques and tools. However, the easiest method is using UNETBOOTIN and a USB flash drive.

Here’s a YouTube video demonstrating how to create a live USB using UNETBOOTIN:

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The directions differ slightly from those in the video. After downloading the toolkit image you need and running UNETBOOTIN, perform the following steps:

  1. Select the Diskimage radio.
  2. Click on the rectangle with three dots and choose the disk image that you downloaded.
  3. Select your USB drive. Make sure you don’t accidentally choose the wrong drive.
  4. Click on OK

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 How To Enter The BIOS On Your Computer How To Enter The BIOS On Your Computer Inside the BIOS you can change basic computer settings, like the boot order. The exact key you need to strike depends on your hardware. We have compiled a list of strategies & keys to enter... Read More , also known as BIOS.

Ultimate Boot CD

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

UBCD includes many different tools. It even includes Parted Magic. UBCD offers a wide range of abilities, including:

  • Fixing a system with a damaged bootloader,
  • running Darik’s Boot and Nuke to wipe a system before recycling it,
  • RAM diagnostic tools,
  • OEM HDD diagnostic tools, and
  • the 2013 version of Parted Magic.

If you have problems burning the image to a CD, here’s our complete guide on installing UBCD.

Download: Ultimate Boot CD (direct) (Bittorrent)

Parted Magic

After booting from the Parted Magic live USB, you’ll see this menu:

Among Parted Magic’s many capabilities, you’ll also find tools such as:

However, keep in mind that the free version is nearly four years old. The newest version of Parted Magic costs $9.

Download: Parted Magic 2013 (Major Geeks)

All In One System Rescue Toolkit

After booting from the All In One System Rescue Toolkit (AiO-SRT), you’ll see this menu:

Among the many capabilities inside of AiO-SRT, you’ll find

  • desktop sharing tools,
  • basic apps from Ubuntu,
  • disk cloning, partitioning, and erase tools,
  • Windows password reset tools,
  • stress test software, and
  • a browser.

Download: All in One System Rescue Toolkit (Google Drive) (OneDrive) (Bittorrent)

Windows Standalone Executable

One of AiOSRT’s best features is that it also comes in the form of a standalone Windows executable. That means you can run the software from within a functioning Windows system, which cuts down on compatibility issues caused by Secure Boot. (LiveUSBs may not work with Secure Boot What You Need to Know about Windows 10 Secure Boot Keys What You Need to Know about Windows 10 Secure Boot Keys Secure Boot should prevent tablet and PC owners from installing their own OS choice on a Windows 10 device -- but thanks to the accidental leak of the "golden keys", Secure boot is dead. Read More .)

If you run the Windows executable, it automatically launches the autoFIX script, which launches a hardware monitoring program and a CPU/GPU stress test program. It then initiates a virus scan and hardware and software diagnostic programs.

Download: All in One System Rescue Toolkit Windows Standalone (Google Drive) (OneDrive)

Honorable Mentions

  • Trinity Rescue Kit: Trinity Rescue Kit bundles many of the resources found in the other toolkits into a powerful toolkit. It includes all the featured mentioned in the other toolkits, such as password recovery and secure erase apps.
  • Kali Linux: Kali Linux isn’t a complete toolkit. It’s designed specifically for security testing.
  • Hiren’s Boot CD: One of the oldest and most trusted names in toolkits is Hiren’s Boot CD. Like the other toolkits, Hiren’s Boot CD comes loaded with repair tools and can be installed to USB.
  • SystemRescueCd: SystemRescueCd offers an array of Linux-based tools for troubleshooting hardware and software problems.

Which Toolkit Should You Use?

All three toolkits roughly compare to one another. However, UBCD possesses a big advantage: Parted Magic comes inside of UBCD. Unfortunately, UBCD’s copy of Parted Magic is over three years old. Between the UBCD and AiOSRT, I prefer the latter. It offers both a Windows executable and a bootable image that can be burned onto a flash drive.

What’s your favorite Windows toolkit? Are there any that I missed? Let us know in the comments!

Originall written by Dave drager on 14 May, 2008.

  1. Lou
    January 30, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    Article was included in a MUO email I received January 30, 2017 and turns out to be yet another old MUO article misrepresented as new (from the dates on the comments, originally written in 2009, yet the author's tagline claims January 24, 2017).
    How are we to know everything presented is still applicable? Are the links still good? Are the companies/organizations/individuals mentioned still active?
    A lot can change in 8 years, especially in technology. MUO, at the very least, have enough respect for your readers to indicate if article is a re-run in the title (eg: originally published 2009), and highlight changes, if any.

    • Kannon Yamada
      January 30, 2017 at 3:25 pm

      Hi Lou, I apologize for the misrepresentation. We've been updating old content by mostly or completely rewriting them. We also eliminate old links and replace them with functional ones. The content should be entirely new.

      We're supposed to include an "updated" date at the beginning of the article. I'm not sure what happened here, but I'll ask that it be corrected.

  2. 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.

  3. 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)

    • Doc
      January 30, 2017 at 4:24 pm

      Windows XP has no bearing on whether your PC can boot from USB or not - that's a function of the BIOS, *before* your OS gets a chance to boot. Look for a function key, like F10, F11, or F12, that will pop up a "boot menu" to choose a one-time bootup, or enter the BIOS and move the hard disk down the list of boot devices to enable boot from a USB device.

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

    quite practical

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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

    Very few computers will boot to a usb thumb drive.

    • Doc
      January 30, 2017 at 4:26 pm

      Actually, over the last decade or so, more and more PCs (especially those without floppy drives or optical drives) are capable of booting from USB devices. Check your PC for a "boot menu" by tapping F10, F11, or F12 during bootup, or check your BIOS' boot order to enable it.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

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

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

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

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

    • Doc
      January 30, 2017 at 4:27 pm

      Grab the ISO file and something like UNETBOOTIN or RUFUS to copy the ISO file to the USB drive. Very useful, and faster than running from a disk...

  12. 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: ultimatebootcd.com/download.html

    • Doc
      January 30, 2017 at 4:28 pm

      Outdated. UNETBOOTIN or RUFUS can copy the ISO file's contents directly to a USB drive, saving a blank disc and several steps.

  13. 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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