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How to Create a Bootable Rescue CD

Sooner or later it will happen to you. One day you'll turn on your PC and it won't boot. No matter how many times you desperately retry, Windows simply won't start up. All the time you will be thinking "why didn't I backup my data."

The good news is your data is probably OK; it's just that you can't get to it. Unless of course your hard drive has died. In that case maybe you really should have backed up your data :>)

Assuming your hard drive is OK, you can access your data and copy it onto removable media or another PC using a bootable rescue CD. With a bit of luck you may even be able to use the rescue CD to fix the problem with your PC and get Windows to boot again.

A rescue CD works by allowing you to launch an operating system directly from the CD so you don't need Windows to be running on your PC. From that CD-based operating system you can then access your hard drive and all your files.
There are lots of rescue CDs available based on different disk-based operating systems. Some use DOS or a DOS clone such as FreeDOS. Others use Linux, but my favorites CDs make use of a cut down version of Windows called the Windows pre-installation environment, the best known of which is Bart's PE [1].

Of the half dozen or so rescue CDs I have in my tool kit, the one I use most frequently is UBCD4Win [2]. It's a Windows-based CD that uses Bart's PE Builder to create the operating system. What I like about it is the huge range of tools included. Yes, you can set up a Bart's PE disk yourself with the same tools or even more, but it's not a simple process, while UBCD4Win comes ready to go.

One of the many valuable tools on the CD is the free imaging program, DriveImageXML, that allows users to create and restore images of their disk drives.

It is particularly valuable because it allows you restore an image of the drive containing Windows even if your Windows system is not booting. For this to work, though, you must have created an image before your system failed. That's a topic I covered in this month's editorial.

You can even setup UBCD4Win to boot from a flash drive, providing of course that your computer's BIOS supports USB drive booting. Personally I think you are better off with a CD. CD booting is supported by all but the most ancient PCs and a CD is only marginally less convenient to carry than a flash drive.

By far the easiest way to create a bootable UBCD4Win rescue CD is to order the preparation CD from the UBCD4Win website [3]. It contains everything you need except the Windows installation CD that came with your PC. Note that the preparation CD is not a complete ready-to-go boot CD but rather the components you need to build one. However, full instructions are included. At $5.95 for US customers and $7.95 International it's a bargain. Hey, you even get a free CD burner program thrown in!

If you are too impatient to wait for the CD to arrive by snail-mail or too stingy to pay the $5.95 then you can download the various files from the UBCD4Win website [2]. The instructions on the website are excellent. Be aware, though, that the download is around 230 MB and the boot CD building requires around 2.5 GB of free disk space.

If files that big sound too daunting then try one of the many Linux based rescue disks [4]. Many are smaller and simpler to set up; just download the ISO file and burn it to a CD. The popular Ultimate Boot CD [5] for example is an 87 MB download. Usage though can be a little daunting for those not used to the Linux environment but there's an excellent Linux rescue disk guide for Windows users here [6].

Whatever option you choose, do take the trouble to set up a bootable rescue CD. One day you will need it. This, I can assure you.


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by crombierob on 28. January 2013 - 11:36  (104883)

I have a PC that won't fully boot. There is a strong chance that the partition is full, so I want to browse the drive, and choose what to delete, to free up some space.
I just Tried Wary Puppy, and the file manger in there is atrocious. In fact every Linux live Cd that I have tried have horrible File Managers.
Does anyone know of Live CD that has a decent file manager. I hate to acknowledge that MS got something right, but they did with Windows Explorer. So I am looking for a Live CD that has a similar File Manager.

by kross81nc-warriors on 25. January 2013 - 5:26  (104797)

i'm finding all this info very interesting! now i'm about 2 use this info & see if it works 4 me! i'll post my results with the predicament i was in after i try using this info! peace!

by Kate (not verified) on 25. January 2012 - 4:21  (87738)

Would a bootable rescue CD be useful with my laptop that is currently unusable? Startup repair is unable to remedy the problem; whatever it is. I cannot boot into Safe Mode either. Thank You

by Robert H Mercer (not verified) on 3. January 2012 - 6:09  (86455)

Nothing I have seen on the various websites gives one an idea as to whether or not this program is of any use for Windows 7 64bit. Most links boast "Windows 7" but perusal shows no such thing............only XP or Vista.

I have been unable to boot my machine since I foolishly installed a Windows 7 update. Since then the machine shows a nice welcome screen then stops with a wonderful cursor arrow in the middle of the screen...........mind you I can move it around with the mouse! Having stuffed up my OS the update also massacred my backup files.......typical MS stupidity.

MS of course merely recommends that I give my computer to a repair specialist. What idiots. Why should I pay big bucks again to fix something that MS stuffed up in the first place?

So. Does anyone know FOR SURE that this wonder CD "UBCD for Windows" works on Windows 7 64bit? More importantly does anyone really know how to obtain this "wonder drug"?

by gizmo.richards on 25. January 2012 - 1:54  (87736)

Reproduced from the the UBCD Forum.

"Can UBCD4Win work on/with computers with Windows Vista, Windows 7 32b or 64b installed on them?

The answer is actually more complex than many people realize because they don't really think about exactly what UBCD4Win really is even though it is described on the main website.

UBCD4Win is a boot enviroment built upon BartPE/WinPE which is a Windows compatible operating system to provide test and recovery utilities to work on systems that may not be able to boot or may not work properly for other reasons. It must be built from a Windows XP or Windows 2003 32b install disk source, not from a 64b source or a recover disk, but the actual files from a standard installation disk. It can not be built from a Windows Vista or Windows 7 install disk source ... so that also means their 32b and 64b versions are excluded.

UBCD4Win can access any of the Windows supported file systems. It can also provide access to the registry of Windows 2000 up to Windows 2003 and newer operating systems completely and the majority of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 registry with the exceptions of the newer registry areas that these may have introduced.

The programs and utilities included with UBCD4Win are not directly a part of UBCD4Win itself, they are add-ons that we refer to as plugins. While we ( in the majority of cases ) created the plugins, the programs/utils are made by others and UBCD4Win was simply given permission by their owners to also include them with the project.. They are XP/2003 compatible programs which will each have their own requirements.

The disk and file based utils included will have no issues with Vista or Win7 ( 32b or 64b, it doesn't matter ) since the file system hasn't changed on these OS. Registry and password type utils may or may not work completely or in some cases at all... but to find out you would need to ask the makers of these type of utility/programs to see if they also support Vista/Win7 properly or not.

So the real question that should be asked is not if UBCD4Win itself can work on Vista/Win7 32b or 64b, it can... The question you need to ask, and one we can't always answer directly, is whether or not the program/util you are needing to use can work properly on them... and the answer can only be asked of the maker of that particular software. "

by Wilford Doc Lindsey on 11. September 2011 - 22:27  (79448)

This looks like exactly like the program I have needed for probably fifteen years! So glad finally found it. Can hardly download it and put it in my Computer First Aid Kit. Thanks a million, and thanks a billion for all the helpful comments. What a helpful group. I just joined and have already benefited more than I could ever have imagined. --Doc

by rikihsi19 (not verified) on 14. October 2010 - 8:25  (59500)

Hi. Does the UBCD4Win boot CD work with Windows 7 64-bit?


by Charles Pedley (not verified) on 13. November 2011 - 21:34  (83231)

Did you find an answer to this question yet? I have the same, Windows 7 Ultimate. I did two downloads, Softpedia and a link from the site.

Softpedia files for Firefox were corrupted and it recommended that I abort. I did.

Then I downloaded through a link on UBCD site from It also reported corrupted files, but did not say which.

It is strange that no one would address or answer this issue with Win7 being the normal current OS.

[Moderator's Note: Edited out personal email address. We don't recommend that you post your email address on our public site.]

by Anonymous on 15. November 2009 - 2:24  (36643)

What do i do if i dont have a installation cd can i use a recovery cd?

by Anonymous on 6. August 2009 - 4:55  (26491)

one can use UBCD4Win with vista 32

by Anonymous on 30. June 2009 - 10:07  (24518)

These files come up hot:

Object Name Status Action Infection Date and Time

C:\UBCD4Win\BartPE\PROGRAMS\combofix\ComboFix.exe Infected Quarantined Application.NirCmd 6/29/2009 8:42:55 AM

C:\UBCD4Win\BartPE\PROGRAMS\SpeedFan\sfextra.dll Infected Quarantined Backdoor.Graybird.GEN 6/29/2009 8:43:15 AM

C:\UBCD4Win\plugin\Cleanup Tools\ComboFix\ComboFix.exe Infected Quarantined Application.NirCmd 6/29/2009 8:43:35 AM

C:\UBCD4Win\plugin\System-Info\Information\SpeedFan\files\sfextra.dll Infected Quarantined Backdoor.Graybird.GEN 6/29/2009 8:43:55 AM

by Anonymous on 17. March 2009 - 21:13  (18059)

I know that others do not have access to the same resources as I do but I happen to have a copy pf VMware's ThinApp. I am the Technical Supervisor at out local high school and I use it to ease the process of installing programs on the many computers that are used there. Anyway, the program makes a single executable file that contains all necessary files, registry entries, etc. that are required to run a particular program. I used it to create "thinstalled" versions of several programs that I use to repair computers. I simply loaded the thinstalled applications onto a flash drive and run them from there. I also have a UBCD4Win created and use that if necessary to get the computer back to working operation and then process to use the thinstalled applications.

by Snuffy (not verified) on 2. March 2011 - 1:01  (67271)

Yes, VMware's ThinApp has been around for a long time, and has a proven track record. Just last night, as I was about to shut down for the night, I decided to look at something that caught my attention earlier in the day. The program is JauntePE. Turns out it is a program along the lines of ThinApp. I noticed it on When I downloaded it, I was sent to

I haven't tried it out yet. I did notice a statement that there are both open and closed source(s) of this software, so be particular about the license if and/or when you pick it up, just to stay on the safe (and FREE) side.

A Google search will turn up plenty of references.

Snuffy said it.


by blebsk on 26. February 2009 - 10:36  (16819)

I have been using UBCD4Win for quite a while now and it is fantastic - I previously used BART PE, but UBCD4Win contains so many more tools - very handy for removing difficult spyware, viruses etc.

For Data Recovery though, I find the Windows based live discs can't always access the data on your hard drive, so it is very important to have a linux cd in your tool kit. I use SPOTMAU, which alas, is not free, but it is a fantastic piece of kit and has allowed me to recover data from PC's and Laptops very easily.

Linux can be a bit daunting if not used before. I have been playing with Ubuntu for a few years now and it is great, but can be a bit slow to load and run from a live CD if you are using an older laptop or pc - I would recommend using Damn Small Linux (DSL) - I only tried it the other night, and WOW - it really flys, even on an old laptop with 256Mb ram - and only 50MB download!


by blebsk on 26. February 2009 - 10:39  (16820)

Sorry Gizmo - I got carried away talking about live discs and may have put this against the wrong section - sorry!


by Anonymous on 24. February 2009 - 15:38  (16737)

Just had a Netbook loaded with Malware & Viruses. No CD/DVD drive and i didnt have an external one laying around.
I was able to run Superantispyware and Antivir Antivirus (and update both) from the USB drive and got rid of most of the nastys. Still needed to do a little house cleaning after, but this allowed me to boot into Safe Mode and install some other apps like Malwarebytes and HJT. Both of which wouldnt install previously due to the various infections.
Followed the instructions from the UBCD4Win forums and specifically from the post linked to below. The version of UBUSB included with UBCD4Win 3.22 is an older version. Not sure what consequences if any there are to using the older version. Read through the entire thread, as there is some old info posted. The UBUSB utility really simplifys things when putting UBCD4Win on a USB flash drive.

by Anonymous on 18. February 2009 - 6:45  (16244)

UBCD4WIN v 3.22 includes instructions on creating bootable USB Drives.

by Anonymous on 3. February 2009 - 0:13  (15182)

If I have my XP installation CD do I need to get a boot CD?

by Anonymous on 29. November 2008 - 0:06  (11184)

For buring ISO images try these apps ImgBurn and CDBurnerXP Pro:


by choicefresh on 14. August 2008 - 17:45  (6111)

Peter O: For XP, Server, or Vista, I recommend For any other Windows, get Mac and Linux have ISO burning built in,

by Anonymous on 11. August 2008 - 5:05  (5916)

You mention ISO files & that's a seperate mystery to me & one I had hoped I might find enlightenment on here.
I know others get utterly confused by this also so maybe its a topic worth covering in tech help.

Great site generally BTW & one I have spent hours reading/digesting, thanks for the ongoing effort.

Peter O

by Anonymous on 11. June 2008 - 11:40  (1933)

Also like UBCD4Win, but currently you cannot use Vista to create a bootable UBCD4Win USB HD. I think it would be interesting to have a review on "How to create a rescue bootable UFD".

by Anonymous on 9. June 2008 - 6:52  (1797)

Absolutely agree. UBCD4Win is by far the best toolset CD and boot CD you can find. I've been using Hirens boot CD for a year until I found this gem.