How To: Create the Ultimate Boot Disk

norman

Looks like your system is on the fritz again -- it refuses to boot your operating system. What do you do now? You can take it a tech shop and have "experts" investigate the problem, but that a costly option. Even if your computer can’t load Windows, there is still a way to fix boot problems without reformatting. With the right boot CD, you can perform your own troubleshooting dianosis the cure whatever ails your PC. Our guide will show you how to make a powerful boot disk that'll let you do more than just access a DOS prompt. You'll be able to run processor stress tests, memory scans, edit partitions, and even extract hard drive data.

Time = 1 hour

What you need:

Downloading and Booting the Ultimate Boot CD

The Ultimate Boot CD features software that can do everything from run a CPU stress test to scanning your hard drive for bad sectors. All of the included utilities are easy to use and should be in every computer technician’s toolkit. You can individually download all the software that is on the UBCD, but this package saves time by including all the software on one convenient CD.

Go here to download the Ultimate Boot CD image. You can download from any of the mirrors listed, but if possible, we recommend you grab the compressed zip image so the download is smaller. They all produce the same ISO file, so it doesn’t matter what type you download.

After the download is complete, extract the archive and then burn the ISO to a blank CD. You need to burn it as an ISO so your computer can boot from it. Both CDBurnerXP and IMGBurn can do this and are free.

Once the disk is burned, start up the faulty computer and boot from this disk. You may have to change the boot order in order to boot from your optical drive. Press F8 (sometimes F10, depending on the motherboard) to get to your system’s boot menu.

When you are prompted, press Enter to boot off of the disk.

You will be given a main menu that serves as an interface to all the tools. You will only use the first six options. Here is a quick run-down of all the sections on the Ultimate Boot CD.

  • Mainboard Tools: In this section, you will see tests for almost everything that physically connects to a motherboard. If you wanted to test your RAM for example, you would launch one of the Memory test programs and then press Enter.
  • Hard Disk Tools: In this section, you will find all the tools that have to do with hard drives. You will see formatting tools, disk cloning tools, installation tools, diagnostic tools and many others.
  • Filesystem Tools: The utilities here are primarily useful if you want to edit partitions or do something with boot managers.
  • Other Tools: This section is a catchall for the various tools that did not fit into any other section. You will find malware removal programs and network tools. We recommend you avoid this section since the malware removal tools tend to be dated.
  • User-defined Tools: These are apps you create yourself and will not be covered in this guide.
  • DOS/Linux Boot Disks: This section has a collection of various boot disks that run in DOS or Linux. These can be very useful if you are trying to retrieve data off your hard drive.

Why Use the Ultimate Boot CD

The Ultimate Boot CD is primarily designed for people that are having serious non-OS-related problems with their computer, including faulty hardware. Excluding the operating system makes it easier on you to troubleshoot an error.

Memtest86+ for example, found under Mainboard tools and then Memory Tests, is useful if you are having problems that you don’t think is software related. The program gives you a general idea of whether your RAM is operating as it should.

The hard drive diagnostic utilities found under Hard Disk Tools, are useful when you are having disk corruption issues or if you are just having strange problems and already got the all-clear from Memtest86+. Every major hard drive manufacturer has diagnostic software included on the Ultimate Boot CD. These programs will scan for errors and let you know if it is time to RMA or throw away that hard drive.

The Ultimate Boot CD contains many other utilities to diagnose computer problems, including stress testing applications, partition editors, boot managers and many other software diagnostic programs.

Downloading and Booting the Ultimate Boot CD for Windows

As the name implies, the Ultimate Boot CD for Windows is specifically designed to work with Windows. This means most of the utilities on this CD are native to Windows and can only be used on a Windows-based system.

The Ultimate Boot CD for Windows uses Windows XP files and Bart PE to boot. Since it uses Windows XP files, this boot CD is not distributed as an ISO since it would break Microsoft’s EULA. Instead, you must manually build the project files.

Click here to download the project file. It is a large file so make sure you download this file with a broadband Internet connection.

Put your Windows XP CD into your optical drive. Create a new folder on the desktop and name it XPCD . Explore the CD, but do not run the disk, and drag all the files on the CD into this new folder. This will create a copy of all the XP files that are on the CD. If you do not do this, your CD will not be able to boot and the build process will fail.

Double-click on the UBCD4Win file. An installation wizard will display that lets you change the extraction location. Keep all the default settings to minimize the chance of problems. The program will extract the files to the C:\UBCD4Win directory.

After the program is done extracting, it will want you to do a MD5 Hash verification to make sure the file is not corrupt, click Yes to verify the file.

If you receive any errors on the hash check, re-download the file because a corrupted file may cause serious problems when trying to build the CD.

After the verification, UBCD4Win will start enumerating the files and folders to make sure there are no missing files. If it detects that there are files missing, you will have to re-download the file, otherwise certain tools will be missing.

Once UBCD4Win completes the individual file integrity check, you can start building the CD, but first UBCD4Win will ask if you want to check for patch releases and minor updates. You aren’t required to do this, but we recommend that you click Yes.

The updater is mostly useful if you plan to download the patch releases after a new version comes out.

The UBCD4Win builder is now ready to start, click Finish.

When the UBCD4Win PE Builder starts, you will have to accept the EULA -- make sure you read it.

Do not search for Windows installation files, since it will take forever. The reason for creating a folder with all the XP installation files earlier was so we could skip this step.

You should now get the main PE Builder window. You will see a Source, Custom, Output, and Media Output section. We will be using the Source, Output and Media Output section.

Click the “…” button to the right of the Source text box. Direct it to the XPCD folder you created earlier and click Ok. In the Output section, leave the word Bart PE alone.

We recommend that you create an ISO image first, but you can also burn directly to a CD. We are going to assume that you are creating an ISO image.

PE Builder will store the ISO in C:\UBCD4Win and name it UBCD4WinBuilder.iso. Don’t change the name or location.

Click on the Build button and PE Builder will start building the ISO .

It may take a while to build the ISO. When it is done building, click the Close button and then click Exit on the PE Builder window.

Navigate to the UBCD4Win directory, C:\UBCD4Win. Inside of that folder, you will find UBCD4WinBuilder.iso. Burn this file, as an ISO, to a blank CD. If you do not have burning software, CDBurnerXP and IMGBurn can burn it and both are free.

Burning the image is the last step in the build process. To use this CD, just restart your computer and boot from the disk. You may have to change your boot order in the BIOS to do this.

Why use the Ultimate Boot CD for Windows?

Unlike the Ultimate Boot CD, this boot disk features applications that specifically run on Windows. The interface uses the traditional XP-style start menu. The reason it resembles Windows XP is that we used the Windows XP setup files.

The malware removal tools, for example, can be used to remove malware outside of Windows. These tools can update as long as you are connected to the Internet. This means the malware will not be able to “call home” but you will still be able to get your updates.

The CD features other programs besides anti-malware programs; it also features many other programs. Here is a short list of things you can do with the Ultimate Boot CD for Windows.

•    Stress Test your computer
•    Browse the Internet with Firefox or Internet Explorer
•    Create PDF’s
•    Edit User account passwords and other passwords
•    Edit the registry
•    Backup your hard drive, clone partitions, and diagnose your hard drive
•    Burn CD’s

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