Help! Is there any way to get data off my laptop without WindowsXP?

I have a Toshiba 35X Satellite laptop, that will not boot into windows… some driver fails and it cycles round and round. The laptop came with a “recovery” disk. The disk unfortunately, only gives you the option to format and restore the system from scratch.

It isn’t a big problem to restore the system from scratch, but I have a few files I’d like to recover first. I have a desktop PC as well. What is the easiest way to get these files off the laptop without WindowsXP? Is there some way I can use the USB connection to “see” the hard drive on the laptop from my PC and copy files from it? Or, is there a way to copy files to one of those portable USB drives without booting to WindowsXP?

Is there a way to make it boot from the CDROM drive? If both computers are using the same version of XP, you should be able to create a boot disc on the desktop to use on the laptop.

Probably the easiest way is to pull the drive out of the laptop and use one of these to temporarily install it as an additional slave drive on one of the IDE channels in your desktop. You can then boot the desktop and pull off whatever files you need to save. After than, you can put the laptop drive back in and do the recovery thing. Before you do that, though, make sure the recovery CD doesn’t give you the option to repair the existing installation–some do, some don’t. Use F8 (or whatever key the system prompts you for–watch carefully while booting from the CD) at boot to get to the boot options and see if you can get into the recovery console. From there, you can see if you can manually extract the needed file from the recovery CD and copy it to the appropriate folder on your hard drive.

You basically need to boot off another disk and use another operating system to get at the data on your Windows drive.

I believe that the Windows recovery console on Windows install disks is supposed to let you do these kinds of data-recovery tasks, but I’m not certain of how to do that. I believe that the recovery console has only a limited subset of Windows’ functions, and doesn’t gove you the same system you may be used to as a user.

Or you could use your desktop PC to download a Linux ‘Live CD’ image, which will run right off the CD and in memory, without needing your hard drive. Burn the image to a CD. Stick the CD in your laptop and boot off the CD. You should be able to see your Windows hard drive from within Linux, and you can then copy your data to another disk.

If your laptop has a floppy drive, you may be able to boot off a DOS or Linux boot disk, but I’m not sure whether systems that will fit on a floppy disk can read the disks in an XP system (specifically NTFS disks).

If your laptop has a USB connector, you may be able to boot off a memory device plugged into it as well. There are Linux distributions that will do this.

Note: this assumes that your computer can boot off the CD drive or USB connector. Some can’t.

Why do I mention Linux? Because it can be downloaded without restriction. I recommend Knoppix for a LiveCD system that will recognise a lot of different hardware when it boots, and Damn Small Linux for a LiveCD-type system that will boot from a USB memory drive.

Several options exist:

-Physically remove the hard drive (on a newer laptop, this might be as easy as sliding it out), get an adaptor cable and install it in your desktop PC.

-Boot from a Linux ‘live’ CD - this should give you a fully working operating system (although perhaps not one with which you’re familar) and this should support the transfer of data either to a removable device or across a network.

-Borrow a Windows XP installation CD from someone - it needs to be the same version (home/pro) and the same release (in terms of what service pack, if any, is included with it), boot from this and (carefully)run a repair install. It isn’t illegal or a violation of the user licence to do this.

-Boot from a Windows Preinstallation CD, such as BartPE - this gives you what is essentially a very stripped-down windows-like environment, but it should have sufficient functionality to allow you to copy the files off to a removable device or to a networked machine. In order to build a BartPE disk, you need a proper XP installation CD, but again, this needn’t be a violation of the law or the user license if the one you use is essentially the same version of Windows as you currently have licensed on the machine.

As an alternative to cracking the case on the desktop, you could pick up one of these . You still need to open the laptop, but you don’t have to worry about jumpers on the drive, since it’s USB. We just used one of these to rescue my buddy’s HD from his deceased Dell laptop. As a bonus, if the laptop itself is fried (as his was), you now have an external USB drive.

This article should help a bunch.

I attempted a similar method (using Linux to recover files) when my laptop HD crashed. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to save it (the motherboard went)

If all you want is to grab some files before ‘recovering’, I vote for using a live CD (Ubuntu, Knoppix, etc). It has the advantage of being cheap and likely to work, but you’ll require some basic ability to mount the disk and transfer the desired files across a network.

I wasn’t impressed by BartPE’s interface, nor it’s sad lack of network drivers. (I used it recently trying to recover a failed HD, but even had it been able to read the drive, I wouldn’t have been able to transfer the files anywhere).

The adapter Q.E.D. lists is the easiest if your desktop machine runs 2k or XP, but for most people, those adapters are only useful once. (unless you want to send me it after, 'cause our IT guy used ours with a client PC to save a laptop, then forgot it inside and shipped it half way across the province :smack: )

Will the linux “live” disk installation recognize and copy to a USB drive?

I have a wireless network set up, and I never was able to get my laptop and PC to “see” each other even if I plugged in the ethernet cable. I only changed the obvious things, like enable “sharing” - I didn’t have time to explore it further. Is there something special I have to do if I try the “live” Linux route, in order to get the linux OS to see my desktop PC drives over the network?

I have a WindowsXP disk which came with the Dell desktop, but it’s “professional”, and my laptop has some subset of XP “home” I think.

I should add, the only way I can write anything off the laptop is if it’s to a USB drive, or to the writeable CD drive. (which I assume needs to be occupied with the “live” Linux CD). I don’t have a diskette drive.

Thanks for all your excellent suggestions, btw. Without them I would probably have investigated hooking up the hard drive directly to the desktop as QED said - thanks for pointing me to the right converter.

First I’m going to try downloading the Knoppix live CD image. I hope the live CD OS will be able to see my USB drive.

My wife’s Toshiba laptop did what yours did a few months back. I was able to pop in Knoppix, insert a thumb drive, and then copy all of her data from her drive to the thumb drive.

I’m sure that you already found that Toshiba offers no help other than to completely reimage the drive. When I was asking the fellow at tech support how to repair the corrupted registry that was causing my grief, he begin telling me a sequence of steps that ended in “Place the recovery CD in the drive and cycle the power”.
I asked him “Will this wipe everything?” Him: “Of course!”

I was glad I asked at that point.

I will warn you that her laptop was not configured to boot from CD, so I had to go into BIOS and change that. You will likely have to do the same.

Good look!

Well, I successfully loaded the Knoppix CD, but I can’t see the USB drive, anyone have any suggestions?

I’m not familiar with the Knoppix live distribution (I’m not all that familiar with any of the others either), but in my limited experience, automatic mounting of USB drives often works better if they’re actually plugged in when the machine is booted. There’s bound to be a proper way to do it. Here is a discussion detailing what appears to be a similar issue.

Wow. Uncanny. I could have written that EXACT same post.

A few months back? Check.

Wife’s computer? Check.

Toshiba laptop? Check.*

Knoppix disc? Check.

USB thumb drive? Check.

Copy data? Check.

  • Fucking hard drive started to kick the bucket two weeks after the warranty expired.

From my experience with Linux, the USB drives usually show up as a SCSI disk. A recent LiveCD should be able to handle it being plugged in after booting. Try this first:

mkdir /mnt/usbdrive
mount -t vfat /dev/sda1 /mnt/usbdrive

Hopefully that will work, if it doesn’t you’ll have to do a little research on mounting partitions and how to tell which drives/partitions are available. My usual test is to just run ‘fdisk /dev/sda’ then print the partition table. If it doesn’t look right (USB drives usually only have 1 partition taking the whole disk) then I try /dev/sdb, /dev/sdc and so on until I find the one that looks like the USB drive.

I can’t mkdir nor can I mount. I had to set acpi = off because the laptop wouldn’t boot otherwise. It will freeze with the default boot settings.

I looked in the /dev directory and I think there’s a sda there but it’s only a file.

The thumb drive does not show up automatically.

I am able to see a network, so may be able to get the files off that way, but now I’m dying to know why I’m having so much trouble seeing my thumb drive, especially since others have been doing this with a Toshiba laptop.

The laptop does recognize the three usb ports.