Server Fault is a question and answer site for system and network administrators. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Occassionally Windows computers crash badly so it cannot even do a safe boot.

If you do not have access to the Windows install media (preinstalled PC), which boot image would you recommend to start a shell on the Windows hard disk volume (NTFS)?

A DOS or UNIX type shell would be ok.

I will prefer a solution which have a data transfer mechanism via WiFi, net or CD/DVD so user data can be salvaged.

share|improve this question
up vote 1 down vote accepted

The easiest one for that would most likely be Knoppix: - it's a bootable Linux distribution that runs completely off the CD, doesn't touch the physical disk.

Other other option, is Windows PE: It's like Knoppix for Windows (gives you a bootable Windows shell, without touching the hdd). You need to have physical Windows disks avaliable to make the bootable disk, but if you keep it handy and you're on-site without windows media, it's a life saver. Especially if you create your PE image with lots of nice software, like Norton Ghost, etc. It even supports a lot of network cards.

share|improve this answer
My friend found the installation CD and I did a Windows reinstall. The BSOD was most likely due to a registry inconsistensy. – Jan B. Kjeldsen Jun 13 '09 at 6:49
I tried both Knoppix and BartPE. Knoppix worked well (after cleaning CD), but required manual mounting of the NTFS partition. BartPE worked on my PC but not on the target. – Jan B. Kjeldsen Jun 13 '09 at 6:55
Well, glad to hear that you got some sort of resolution! – Mark Henderson Jun 13 '09 at 10:43

WinPE. See

Looks and works much like Server 2008 Core.


share|improve this answer

I've used a Ubuntu live boot CD to duplicate an NTFS drive using dd on a sector copy basis. But I was also able to mount the drive and copy files and had net access.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.