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Windows 7: Emergency Windows 7 USB boot without reinstall?

10 Oct 2017   #1
newbie123

Windows 7, 8 & 10
 
 
Emergency Windows 7 USB boot without reinstall?

My Windows 7 system went down, and like others, I need to restore some data not included in my backups. I bought a new Windows 10 PC, so am not looking to recover or reinstall my old system; just want one-time access to get some files and app data, then I'll re-format the disk and dispose of the old PC.

I have a reinstallation disk (CD), and see many tutorials for creating a USB boot drive, but they all seem to rely on reinstalling the OS, and working from there. I don't want that (full install wipes my data, repair install gets hung up on the corrupt disk). Isn't there a way to just boot from a USB to access the old files?

Maybe this is a dumb question, or I'm missing the obvious. Advice?


My System SpecsSystem Spec
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10 Oct 2017   #2
newbie123

Windows 7, 8 & 10
 
 

If it helps, and to be clear, the problem on my Windows 7 PC seems to be a corrupt disk, not corrupt Operating System (but being a newbie, maybe I don't understand that these are essentially the same -- when I try to boot, a screen tries to check for disk errors, and runs for days without fixing anything).

Maybe if the disk is corrupt, there's no way to access my data (it is not on a separate partition from the OS).
My System SpecsSystem Spec
10 Oct 2017   #3
essenbe

Windows 10 Pro/ Windows 10 Pro Insider
 
 

Hello Newbie123, welcome to the forums. You have several options to do what you want. If you have an external dock, you can put the Windows 7 hard drive in the dock and connect it to your new Windows 10 PC. You should be able to copy/paste from one disk to the other.

You can use a Live Linux CD/USB which will be able to read your disk and you can copy the files to an external hard drive.

With a Windows 7 CD/USB you can copy/paste From the recovery console to an external/another hard drive. This will show you how. Copy Paste - in Windows Recovery Console - Windows 7 Help Forums
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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10 Oct 2017   #4
newbie123

Windows 7, 8 & 10
 
 

Thanks essenbe -- I'll give it a try and report back.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
10 Oct 2017   #5
newbie123

Windows 7, 8 & 10
 
 

Wow -- that was genius! Worked great, except for one small glitch: some of the files I wanted were in the 'hidden' User\AppData folder, and didn't show in the dialog. I don't suppose there's a trick for making them visible in simple 'repair' mode?

If not, thanks for helping me retrieve what I did; much appreciated.

You (and/or others) should spread this around. A lot of people search for ways to retrieve data off unbootable drives. Most other solutions involve reinstall, which often compromises data. Your way is a little labor intensive, but a life-saver in emergencies.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
10 Oct 2017   #6
essenbe

Windows 10 Pro/ Windows 10 Pro Insider
 
 

Great I'm glad it worked for you. Congratulations for taking the time and effort to make it work. As far as the AppData folder, there shouldn't be a lot in there that you would need, but it is a hidden folder by default. I honestly don't know if you can get into it. I would have to play around a little to try it. But, I'm not currently running Windows 7. I am on Windows 10 and spend most of my time on our sister forum tenforums.com.

You could try hooking it up to your Windows 10 computer and enable 'show hidden folders' in File Explorer. I would think that would work if didn't run into permissions problems. Those problems can probably be resolved fairly easily, though.

I don't know about a Linux CD, that may work as well. The Live ISO does not install and runs from ram, but it can 'see' the other connected hard drives. Copy and paste from them is pretty easy too.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
10 Oct 2017   #7
essenbe

Windows 10 Pro/ Windows 10 Pro Insider
 
 

I would also suggest you start making regular backups and images. They can really save you, especially at times like this. If you had those, you wouldn't be having to go through all of this. Trust me, you will be here again.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
11 Oct 2017   #8
newbie123

Windows 7, 8 & 10
 
 

I do have backups of my main files, just never bothered with settings files for apps; only on reinstallation did I realize how much configuring I'd done -- I'll back those up in the future.

It's only for two apps, so I don't think it's worth going to the lengths you suggest, but I had an idea that you might help with: using command prompt to show hidden files. I searched around and found some commands that might work, which I'll post if you think it's a viable option in this situation. I'm not even sure you can get to command prompt at the startup stage.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
11 Oct 2017   #9
essenbe

Windows 10 Pro/ Windows 10 Pro Insider
 
 

You can get to Command Prompt with the installation USB, just at the 'choose your language' screen, hold the Shift key down and press F10. But, be aware that drive letters are different in the recovery environment than in Windows. The command prompt should open to X: which is the installation media.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
11 Oct 2017   #10
newbie123

Windows 7, 8 & 10
 
 

Okay, before I try though, let me run these commands by you to make sure they work. I did a little Command Prompt 101 learning; it looks like this is the easiest way to go:

dir /a:hd C:\FolderName

lists the folders in the Command Prompt window, including hidden folders, so I can see what I'm working with.

xcopy /e /i /h /k c:\FolderName d:\FolderName

to copy/paste in a single command.

You likely know this, but for the benefit of anyone reading:

xcopy = copy folder
(use 'copy' for files, with full path, including file extension)
/e - copies folders and subfolders, including empty ones.
/i - creates a new directory if the destination folder doesn't exist, and copies all files.
/h - copies hidden and system files also.
/k - copies attributes; typically, xcopy resets read-only attributes.

There is a space before every slash, and also before the two drive designations.

Does that sound like a plan to you?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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 Emergency Windows 7 USB boot without reinstall?




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