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Make a rescue CD

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If the computer no longer starts up in the usual manner, there may be many causes. An emergency or rescue CD lets you try to repair the system, giving you a chance to recover your precious data.

In the early days of personal computers (PCs for short), startup problems and system crashes were just part of most users’ everyday lives. Now, all operating systems work much more stably. Developers have integrated a number of precautions that operating systems use to repair themselves in the event of problems. In spite of this, however, it may happen now and then that the computer does not start up correctly. A rescue CD is one of the best ways to prepare for this. 

First aid for computer emergencies

First aid for computer emergencies.

Possible reasons for a false start

When the system starts up, the computer executes a series of programs and scripts that help the system check its integrity. Minor maintenance tasks are also done during this process. If the system finds any problems, it tells you with tips and recommended actions to that effect. 

Naturally, this makes it necessary for the part of the operating system that handles these tasks to operate without any errors. If that is not the case, the computer will no longer even start.

The reason may be one of the following

  • The computer has a hardware defect. It is possible that the sector of the hard drive where the operating system is located cannot be read. 
  • Special circumstances (for example, a sudden power loss during operation) have damaged an important system file. 
  • The system could have been attacked by malware that keeps it from starting.

How does a rescue CD work?

The term “emergency” or “rescue CD” is somewhat misleading, because it comes from a time when computers could only boot up from a CD-ROM. Now, however, USB memory sticks can perform this function too. So it would be more correct to refer to “boot media for emergencies”. 

In an emergency, use boot media as follows

  • To use the rescue CD, the computer must at least respond after it is switched on. If the fans are still quiet after the On/Off switch is pressed and the LEDs do not respond either, the computer has a major hardware defect. In such cases, you need a technician.
  • Put the emergency CD into the drive or insert the USB stick into the correct jack on the computer. Now turn the computer off, wait a few seconds, and turn it back on.
  • You should see the boot menu of the emergency operating system on the screen now. Now you can begin your rescue work, depending on the defect and the tasks to be done. 

Ensuring that Windows restarts

If your Windows PC no longer boots up, you will need external boot media with the operating system. There are two options for creating the boot media:

  • Open Control Panel and enter Recovery in the little search field.
  • Then choose Create Recovery Drive from the hits and click it.
  • This will trigger a wizard that will take you through the next steps.
  • In the first step, leave the “Back up system files to the recovery drive” button selected. This step is necessary so that Windows can be reinstalled from the data carrier. 
  • Plug in a USB stick with at least 8 gigabytes. This is formatted as a recovery drive. All data on it beforehand is lost. 
  • Now the rescue system is compiled. This takes some time.

The recovery drive offers the option of reinstalling Windows. It also contains all the repair tools, just as on an original DVD.

As an alternative, you can also get a data carrier directly from Microsoft. The Windows version is designed for rescuing a system, but it is not suitable for installing Windows on a new PC at a deep discount.

  • Visit the Microsoft page .
  • Download the Media Creation Tool and run it.
  • The program files are downloaded from the internet and saved to the USB stick.

Emergency data carriers for other situations

Depending on the reason for the malfunction, it may be a good idea to use alternative boot media. Many providers of virus scanners offer this kind of emergency systems that are optimized to search for malware and remove it.
Still, these emergency tools are not suitable for repairing or reinstalling Windows! These systems allow you (depending on the scope of the tools in the package) to:

  • Boot the system,
  • check the hard drive for damage and repair it if necessary,
  • check the computer for viruses, Trojans, or ransomware in order to remove them,
  • restore specific files that have been deleted (by accident).

You can get the rescue media free of charge from the manufacturers’ sites, for example from Norton or Kaspersky.

Further reading