Posted by: docdenbow | January 4, 2013

How To Rescue Files When Your Laptop Crashes

There’s lotsa images on this post so it may take a while to load………………………………..

Over the past few years, nearly 15 to be precise, I have managed to make myself into a pretty useful chap to know if you have or use a computer. When it comes to computer problems there’s not a lot that I cannot sort out, fix, call it what you will. I’ve rescued data from computers that won’t start, reinstalled Windows loads of times and I’ve even introduced people to the joys of Ubuntu. That’s not to say I consider myself to be a geek, I don’t. I have learned slowly but surely the ins and outs of resolving problems on computers, sometimes by trial and error, sometimes by searching t’internet for answers and sometimes by sheer cussedness.

So why am I telling you this? Well, I’m a little bit pissed off with people taking advantage of my good nature and willingness to help them out. As I’ve said it’s taken me a long time to get to the stage I’m at with PCs (laptops) and although many of my friends know a hell of a lot more than me, I think I’m what is known in the trade (any trade) as a soft touch.

This year I’m not going to be a soft touch anymore.

I’ll give you a scenario, which hopefully will help you out if your PC (laptop) decides to go tits up. And also entertain you as some of it is written tongue in cheek, but the tech’y stuff is bang on (but at your own risk etc etc) Think of it as a bit of self help. It may help you rescue photographs that you should have backed up, music and movies, porn and others, that you’ve (illegally!) downloaded, important documents and such like. Okay it goes something like this.

One day you turn on your ill cared for laptop and instead of giving you that comforting bing bong sound as Windows loads basically the screen lights up, the laptop wheezes, chucks up a load of writing on the screen that no one understands and just sits there staring malevolently at you. At this point what do you do? Well usually the terminally stupid among you will phone Curry’s Tech Guys who will happily reformat your laptop for you over the phone and ensure that you have lost everything you had there, eg photographs that you should have backed up, music and movies, porn and others, that you’ve (illegally!) downloaded, important documents and such like. That all they’ll ask you to send it in to them where they attempt to fix it.

Well that’s your choice, but let’s pretend you don’t have the “expert” Tech Guys to turn to. So what do you do then? Well this is what you do. You ask good old Denbow to “have a look.” You offer to pay Denbow to sort it out for you, but as Denbow is a generous kind soul Denbow usually says something like “Nah s’alright, don’t want your money.”

Yes, folks that is where the 1st mistake is made, but lets move on. We will get to the geeky stuff soon, I promise. So I take delivery (usually I have to collect it myself self) of the laptop. Now without talking about ram, processor speed, graphics card, hard disc size and all that, I’ll give you the typical specifications of the type of laptop I’m usually asked to sort out.

1 – It smells weird
2 – It is filthy
3 – The power cable is twisted so much it appears to be about 1 inch long
3 – The screen looks like it’s shattered such is the amount of dirt
4 – The keyboard is full of crumbs and other stuff to horrible to even think about
5 – The battery (if it works at all) will run the laptop on full charge for about 2 seconds.

Get the idea? Good! So I have to clean the damned thing before I can even attempt to use it, so donning my latex gloves I set about the stinking beastie with a variety of wipes to clean and disinfect the errant electrical good. Once this is achieved I can set about trying to work out how the loving owner of this marvel of technology has, how do you say, f*cked it up.

Just to clarify a small point here, if the laptop looks like this –


then I think we’re wasting time here, but if it looks like this, then we’re in with a shout


Coffee in cup and fag in hand the laptop is started and errors observed. Windows loves giving you error messages that make no sense and seem to be in some kind of code. There are a few common codes, but as there is no DOS (look it up like I had to) with modern operating system, it’s at this point you may find that you’re basically screwed. If are one of the lucky ones and your computer was supplied with a Windows disc or at least a recovery disc then you’ll be fine.. Never mind when the PC was new you did make your recovery discs didn’t you? No? Moron!

So what do I do from here? Boot it up and see what happens, that’s what.


This may not be exactly what you are seeing, but what the hell?

Hmm, so what next? Retry, press random keys and Windows loads. But emblazoned across the screen is an error message.

wine file missing

Then I do some secret hard learned superfast typing in a special secret command prompt mode, press enter and stand back engaging smug mode

smug mode

Ooops, didn’t expect this


Not being one to give up easily I try a couple more times and this legend ends up on screen


As I’ve already said I’m not super geeky but we need to get into the laptop for the pics, porn and music don’t we? So to get into the PC I usually install an operating system to a USB flash drive a boot off that. Gobbledegook? Okily, I’ll explain one step at a time.

First of all you need a couple usb sticks. One of them oesn’t need to be one of massive capacity in fact 1gb will do but the second one I would say the bigger the better as it will make your life easier. (I bought a 64gb stick from EBay for £16) Even better if you have an external USB hard drive then one little stick will do.

So using a working computer you’ll need to download an operating system. Here the best choice is Puppy Linux. Don’t be put off if you think Linux is all mysterious, it isn’t, so just go with the flow here.

You’ll need to go here to get Puppy Puppy Linux and at the time of writing the newest is 5.4. Okay download it and check that you know where it is on your computer.

The next piece of software you need is a piece of kit called Unetbootin. You’ll find it here Unetbootin and as I’m assuming that you’re using Windows then that that’s the version you need.

Right I’m assuming here that you have downloaded the things I’ve said to download and you know where they are on your computer. On a typical Windows machine these will be in a folder cunningly called “Downloads” which you’ll find lurking in My Documents. You may at this point want to copy the two files to a folder on the Desktop – your choice.

Next insert the USB stick into your computer and let it install (if necessary) Once done double click My Computer and note what drive letter has been assigned to the stick (sometimes tagged a removable drive with a letter). THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. Next double click on that drive letter and delete all the files – I hope they’re not important, if they are save them elsewhere.

Now look for the Unetbootin file you downloaded. Got it? Good! Double click on it and ok or yes to all the dumbass questions Windows asks. Right, so now Unetbootin is ready to use. If you’re still with me we’re doing well. It’s not that hard is it, and this is saving you a fortune.

Ok this is what you’ll see.


On the left hand drop down you’ll need to select Puppy, and on the right hand drop down, it auto selects “latest live” and that’s fine.

We then need to put a dot next to diskimage ISO and on the same line there is a button with three dots, click it and browse to the Puppy file you downloaded. The image below will give you an idea of the sort of thing you should see. (instead of Ubuntu etc etc, it should say Puppy etc etc) Now this next bit is VERY important. Get it wrong and you may screw up the PC you are using. But in the words of Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy “DON’T PANIC” and don’t be put off, just be thorough and check and recheck.

Right, you are checking that the drive letter that Unetbootin is USB in the bottom left hand corner it should be fine, but if it were me me I’d check again to be on the safe side. If you are certain correct letter is in the box, just click “ok.”


Okay, happy with that? Right, let’s move on.

This next part of the process just involves waiting while the data is written to your USB stick so go and make a cup of coffee or something, have a cigarette, like I said the computer here will do all of the work.


At the end of this process by the time you have drunk your coffee and smoked your ciggie, it will tell you to reboot your computer. Ignore that (I do) and get ready to get the bust computer going again.

Firstly we need to access the BIOS setup. This usually easy-peasy.

Here’s How:

Turn on your PC or restart it if it’s already on.

Watch for an “entering setup” message in the first few seconds after turning on your computer. This message varies greatly from computer to computer and also includes the key or keys you need to press to enter BIOS.

Here are some common ways you might see this BIOS access message:

Press [key] to enter setup
Setup: [key]
Enter BIOS by pressing [key]
Press [key] to enter BIOS setup
Press [key] to access BIOS
Press [key] to access system configuration
Quickly press the key or keys instructed by the previous message to get into BIOS.

You may need to press the BIOS access key several times to enter BIOS. Don’t hold the key down or press it too many times or your system may error or lock up. If that happens, just restart and try again.

So now you know how to access BIOS.

Next close down the PC and insert the USB stick and once more g to the BIOS screens. Select the Boot tab (you navigate using the arrow keys) You then need to set the USB to the top of the list (following the instructions on screen) so that it is the Primary Boot Device. Once done, again as it says on screen press F10 and wait.

vm-bios-cdrom-boot (1)

All being well, and if everything is going according to plan the computer will begin to boot, this time Puppy will begin to load. You will see lots of stuff whizzing before your eyes which looks something like this


Occasionally this process will stall, but be patient, if nothing appears to be happening after a minute or two, simply press the Enter Key and after a few moments Puppy will load. You’ll be presented with something that looks very similar to this

Puppy Linux 5.2.8 screenshot

Happy? Well congratulations, you have now installed an Operating System to your USB stick! You’re a right clever clogs aren’t you?

Next you’ll be asked to set a few things up, at this point there is no need to bother so you can close these things off. As you’ll see from the screenshot above Puppy Linux does not look so different from Windows and is pretty intuitive to use. If we’ve got this far we can then have a snoop around the hard drive to find your music and movies, porn and others, that you’ve (illegally!) downloaded, important documents and such like.

I mentioned earlier that if you have an external USB hard drive that would be useful, also a big USB stick (big capacity) would be good. But before we move the files off this busted laptop we need to find them first. On the screenshot you’ll see three icons in the bottom left hand corner. As you can see one has a USB stick type icon, and there should be others that are very similar. One of those is the computer’s hard drive. If you have connected an external USB drive or a second stick, both of those will also be visible. You’ll need to find which one of those “drives” is the computer’s internal hard drive and go in search of the files that you want to rescue. A bit of searching may be required, eventually you’ll a folder called Users, and when you open that you’ll the folders for the computer’s User(s). In my own User folder I have stuff like this.

user box

It is usually the contents of this folder that you will want to save. Take care and search carefully for what it is you’re looking for and copy the files you need to your additional USB drives, i.e. the “big stick” or the external USB hard drive.

Ok, you’ve done all that? No? I guessed that some of you would struggle and as you may appreciate writing down all of this as a step by step process is very difficult to do, so I’d just suggest that you persevere and you should be able to manage.

However, it may be that the internal hard drive is not visible and if that is the case then it’s likely to be due to total hard drive failure or a wonky connector. Also if it is visible and you can’t get the files off it, then it’s possible that you’re “doing it wrong” or all of the files on that hard drive have been corrupted (maybe a virus?) If I’m wrong here I’m sure someone will let me know!

You can shut down the busted computer and when it asks whether you want to save the session and such like select “No” for the present.

Right folks we have now saved all of your precious files and we’re ready for the next stage of getting this computer up and running again. Depending on how old the computer is then you may be able be able to contact the manufacturer and buy some recovery CDs. If you don’t think that it’s worthwhile or the costs involved makes that a bad idea then what next? You could have a look around on the internet (EBay) to see what’s out there that may be of help. There are a couple of Recovery CD’s I’ve seen, but I will not suggest you use them as I have no idea whether they’re any good so you must decide.

If you want to get this busted laptop working again LEGALLY you either buy legit software or use a free open source Operating System. I suggested Puppy Linux to rescue the files that you may lose and you must have noticed that it’s free, no catches. Whilst Puppy Linux is probably the fastest OS I’ve ever used, I’ve never really explored just what you can do with it. It does, however, appear to be a fully featured OS with all the features that Windows has but uses alternative software, e.g. no Microsoft Office rather Open Office. In addition it will breathe new life into an old low spec computer so it may be worth pursuing. There’s loads of forums out there, so there is a ton of online help – as I’ve said before, you decide.

The biggest advantage to Puppy is that you don’t need to install it! If you have a big enough USB stick and save the sessions it “remembers” all of your settings, new installed programmes, changes to the desktop wallpaper etc and you can use the internal drive on the computer just for storing your files! Just think of it as a computer on a USB stick that you keep in your pocket!

There are loads of variations and editions of Linux and which version you pick largely depends on how much Ram that the bust computer has. I’ve used Ubuntu on and off for years and spec wise in my opinion anything more than 1gb of Ram is absolutely fine and will run very well, possibly far quicker than Windows. It looks like this –


If you decided that you want to go for it, then have a search around, download it, put it on a USB stick in the same way you put Puppy on a stick modify BIOS if necessary and have a look and test stuff before you make any decision about whether to install it or not.

Do a bit of research and see what you think.

Finally, you may have mates who may offer copies of Windows downloaded via Bit Torrent sites. These downloads are illegal as they involve copyright material and is not the way to go. I am not going to give any reply or even publish comments relating to illegally downloaded copies of Windows.

I hope I’ve covered all of the bases here and if you follow the info and use your head you may be able to save potentially lost files on your computer should disaster strike.

As I said earlier I’m not going to be a soft touch to plebs anymore taking up my valuable time fixing computers without any reward. Bollocks to the lot of them.

Ciao For Now

Denbow (Apprentice Geek)

P.S. You won’t get a virus with Linux




  1. […] this I have posted about rescuing a laptop using Puppy Linux, you may want to have a look at that Here’s the link I’ve added screenshots that may […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: