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The six best free programs to save your failing PC

Save your PC with these downloadable boot discs

We've rounded up the six programs we think are best for helping you create that failsafe emergency boot disc.

We've all been frustrated with a PC that wouldn't boot. Earlier versions of Windows featured a program that formatted a bootable floppy disk, complete with diagnostic tools and repair utilities, but while modern versions can format a bootable DOS floppy, they don't come with utilities.

However, there are a number of downloadable programs, which come as .iso files and can easily be burnt to disc to create an emergency boot CD using a program such as Nero Burning or Roxio Easy Media Creator, which you may already own. If not, download and install ISO Recorder. The best bit – most of these valuable tools are free.

We've rounded up the six programs we think are best for helping you create that failsafe emergency boot disc. Sadly, one of them isn't entirely free - but there is a free trial.

Know your rescue Oses

Since DOS doesn't handle Windows XP or Vista repairs well, each of these discs boots into one of the following three operating systems. It's good to know a little about them.

Windows PE:

The official, CD-bootable version of Windows (the PE stands for Preinstallation Environment) makes the obvious choice for this sort of thing. Unfortunately, Microsoft maintains strict control, and few utility authors have received permission to use it.


Since Microsoft won't share its preinstallation environment, Bart Lagerweij created his own, and he gives it away for free. But to avoid copyright infringement, he can't give you everything you need to create a BartPE disc. The missing elements consist of Windows XP installation files you may or may not already have.

Linux Live CD:

The name refers to any version of Linux you can download as an .iso file and boot off a CD. But Linux can be an intimidating environment for the uninitiated, it doesn't always handle the NTFS file system well (many versions can read NTFS but not write to it), and it is seldom geared to help with Windows problems.

NEXT PAGE: The six great rescue discs

  1. Know your rescue Osess
  2. The six great rescue discs
  3. Vista Recovery Disc and Ultimate Boot CD for Windows
  4. Trinity Rescue Kit and Active@Boot Disk

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