Out of all the tools at a technician’s disposal, one is the most important. Inside my technician’s toolkit 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. 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:
The directions differ slightly from those in the video. After downloading the toolkit image you need and running UNETBOOTIN, perform the following steps:
- Select the Diskimage radio.
- Click on the rectangle with three dots and choose the disk image that you downloaded.
- Select your USB drive. Make sure you don’t accidentally choose the wrong drive.
- 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, 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.
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:
- Disk cloning and disk partitioning tools,
- virus scanning abilities,
- remote Desktop (tips for fixing RDP screen settings), and
- secure disk erase tools.
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.
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.)
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.
- 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.
For another handy toolkit, check out the best toolbox apps for your Android phone.
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.