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How many of you have had that sinking feeling as your PC boots up? You know, a slight niggle in the back of your mind that says “this is taking longer than usual” before Windows drops dead in front of you, and refuses to play ball.
Me too, and much of the time the original Windows CD/DVD/USB you used in your original install can’t fix the problem. You need something else. Something like a whole operating system, either installed on a separate partition or in Live CD/USB format. Enter Ubuntu!
There are a few good reasons to have Ubuntu on a CD or USB stick somewhere in a draw. It’s free, to start with. You don’t need to install it to use it, and it’s great for accessing a butchered Windows partition – even if it’s just to get your precious documents back before a format.
When it comes to fixing your broken Windows install then Ubuntu has its uses there too. If you happen to break your registry or master boot record, then fear not – all is not lost. This technique should work on any Ubuntu-based Linux distributions.
Download, Install & Boot Ubuntu
Those of you who already have a dual-boot Ubuntu and Windows machine can skip this step.
If you’ve not got a Live USB stick then you’re going to need to get hold of one. UNetbootin is a useful tool which enables you to create a USB stick with a bootable version of your favourite open source operating system preloaded. If you’d prefer to use a CD, download an Ubuntu disk image and burn it with ImgBurn.
If you’re dual-booting, then this is a simple step of choosing Ubuntu over Windows at boot. For Live USB sticks and CDs you’re going to need to enter the BIOS setup as your PC boots (usually by pressing F2 or Del) and arrange your boot devices to prioritize your USB device or CD drive to boot before your main hard drive.
If you’ve done everything correctly you’ll see the UNetbootin bootloader appear. From here you’ll want to boot directly into the operating system. After a minute or two you’ll see the desktop appear, and we’re ready to begin.
Fixing A Corrupted Windows NTFS Partition
Luckily you can schedule an NTFS consistency check within Ubuntu to attempt to repair your tattered Windows partition, but you’re going to need to install a couple of things. It is worth mentioning that this should work with any NTFS drive that refuses to mount in Ubuntu too. Open a Terminal window by clicking Applications, Accessories and then Terminal.
First install NTFS-3G by typing this command:
sudo apt-get install ntfs-3g
Enter your password and hit Enter on your keyboard. Next install NTFSProgs in the same way:
sudo apt-get install ntfsprogs
Now with both of those tools at your disposal, you can set about fixing Windows. First locate your Windows partition. In the Terminal type:
sudo fdisk -l
You’re looking for an entry that looks like this:
/dev/sda2 * 638 12312 93773824 7 HPFS/NTFS
The important bit is the /dev/sda2 which tells us where the Windows partition is mounted. HPFS/NTFS lets us know that the partition is a Microsoft Windows formatted device, and that little star denotes that this is a bootable partition.
So in my case /dev/sda2 means that Windows is on sda (my internal hard drive) and that it’s partition 2 that I want to play around with.
Armed with this information you want to use NTFSProgs to attempt to fix the partition. In your Terminal window type:
sudo ntfsfix /dev/<device name>
Replace <device name> with your Windows partition (e.g. /dev/sda2) and enter your password followed by Enter. Your drive will now be mounted, checked for consistency and any errors found should be fixed. Restart your PC to assess the situation, if all goes well you’ll see Windows.
Fixing A Corrupt Master Boot Record
If you’ve got a problem with Windows’ oh-so-important boot record then you can also fix that from within Ubuntu too. Assuming you’ve already booted into Ubuntu, open up Terminal and install lilo by typing:
sudo apt-get install lilo
Enter your password to proceed with the installation, you’ll get a few warnings pop-up along the way.
If you followed the first part of this tutorial you’ll know which partition Windows is installed on, if you missed it type:
sudo fdisk -l
Find the HPFS/NTFS partition that relates to your Windows install, and type:
sudo lilo -M /dev/ mbr
Replace <device name> with your Windows partition (e.g. /dev/sda2) and hit Enter. Ubuntu will attempt to restore your master boot record. You’ll probably want to restart your machine now, just make sure you take any Live CD/USB devices out as you do.
If you’re still having problems with a Windows install, and you’ve tried everything then don’t forget you can mount the partition and rescue as much data as you think you’ll need. Using the terminal, enter:
sudo mkdir /media/windows
sudo ntfs-3g -o force,rw /dev/<device name> /media/windows
Replace <device name> with your Windows partition location and the drive should pop-up on your desktop.
Has Ubuntu saved your bacon recently? Do you dual-boot with Windows? Thinking about making a Live CD just in case? Let us know below.