A story over at PCmag.com entitled “How to rescue a crashed PC” does a fair job on how to get around a crashed computer. However, the premise of the story is your computer has crashed and it won’t start.
Apart from the obvious issues such as connections, power supply and your two-year-old feeding toast into the optical drive, issues of PCs not booting more often than not come back to the hard drive.
The problem we see with the PCmag.com story is that it spends a lot of time offering suggestions for getting the PC back up again – but depending on the crash (and the state of the hard drive), trying to bring the operating system backup may not be the best thing.
If the hard drive has somehow been damaged, any extra access to the disk could make problems worse. So taking a pragmatic approach, the first thing you should consider doing is getting your important data off that drive as soon as you can. Now that might sound like the “panic now – avoid the wait” type of solution but any time a PC crashes and won’t reboot is not a good sign of stability.
Now you might think that’s all well and good but what if the PC won’t boot up onto the hard drive, how do I get the data off? The answer lies with three simple words – Ubuntu boot disc.
One of the great things about Linux – and there are too many of them to into here – is that it typically comes as what’s called a “live distro”. That means you can burn the ISO file you download straight to a CD, boot the PC up and get a working copy of that Linux operating system without installing anything onto the hard drive.
The beauty with the latest 10.04 version of Ubuntu is that it by booting up into its “trial” mode, you can actually look inside your hard drive (provided it powers up and spins correctly) and see all of its files.
The trick now is to plug in a USB external hard drive or USB flash drive, it gets picked up by the Ubuntu operating system and you can copy files from the stricken hard drive to your external drive. You can then take them to another PC and continue working on them or burn them to storage media.
What’s really important is that you try this out before you come to need it. If you’ve not used Linux before, try it out – make sure you DO NOT select to install the operating system, just use its try-out or trial mode. Get to know how it works – that way, if you do suffer a PC crash, you’ll be able to see if the PC hardware itself will boot up and possibly rescue your data.