Do you want to be your local neighborhood geek? Of course you do! That’s why you’re here. One of the easiest things you can do to earn your badge in geekiness is helping a person recover files from a computer that just won’t boot. How about taking it one step further and actually performing all kinds of different repairs on that ailing computer? Perhaps a user accidentally deleted a file that they shouldn’t have. You would ask the person to simply recover the file from a backup but we all know how that’s going to go right? The user probably never even have thought of putting the words “important files” and “backup” in the same sentence. What about a user who forgot their Windows log on password? You would ask the person to use their password reset disc that they created when they first got their shiny new computer but I’m sure you’ll just get a blank stare as well. With Hiren’s Boot CD, you can perform all these recovery tasks plus a ton more with relative ease. It’s the year 2012 and boot CD’s were so 4-5 years ago. Let’s take a look at how we can boot the entire Hiren’s Boot CD right from our USB thumb drive, the easy way.You can find more information about Hiren’s Boot CD from this past article.
The only thing you really need, device wise, is just a USB thumb drive. Preferably, this thumb drive should be at least 1GB but anything higher is definitely doable as well. The advantage of booting Hiren’s Boot CD (HBCD) from a thumb drive is due to the fact that you do not have to dedicate the drive solely to booting HBCD! If you have a 10GB USB stick, HBCD will take about 1GB. You can use the other 9GB for storing your personal files or other things. In fact, I would recommend you to use a bigger thumb drive because if you’ll be recovering files from an ailing laptop or computer, you’ll need some place to store them. You USB stick should make a good temporary location, unless of course the user has heaps and heaps of data to recover. USB sticks are so cheap that you can get a 32GB one for less than $20. Once you have your thumb drive ready, it’s time to get down to business.
Booting HBCD from a USB Stick
First off, you’ll need to download a copy of Hiren’s Boot CD itself. At the time of this writing, HBCD is at version 15.1. The download weighs in at about 500MB. Once downloaded, simply extract the file with your favorite archiving utility such as 7-Zip (Windows 7 can also extract zip files as well natively). Within the download are a bunch of other files. What we are interested in is just the ISO image of HBCD. Pay no attention to the rest. For simplicity sake, extract the ISO image to your Desktop.You can download HBCD from here. HBCD is basically a single repository of some of the most used freeware utilities on the Internet. With new releases of HBCD, you might find that some utilities are no longer available due to licensing issues and whatnot. Therefore, it’s very important to read the change log for each new release to see what has changed. Mainly, you’ll be looking at what utilities have been added or deleted.
Once we have the ISO image extracted, we now need to download the utility that will help us create the bootable thumb drive containing the HBCD files. I have read of numerous ways of making HBCD boot off of a USB thumb drive but they contained more steps than what I will show here. An awesome utility called UNetbootin allows a user to create bootable USB thumb drives containing many different Linux distributions. This utility is all that is needed to make our thumb drive bootable and that is why it’s so darn awesome!You can download UNetbootin from here. Please note the requirement that the resulting bootable thumb drive is only good on Windows PCs and not on Macs.
Now that we have all the files needed, it’s time to prepare our thumb drive. At this point, if you have any important data on the drive, you must back it up to another location because we will perform a reformat which essentially will wipe everything away. Once that is done, head over to Computer, right-click on your USB drive icon and select the Format menu option.
Within the Format options window, choose to format the drive with the FAT32 file system. You can also choose to give your drive a volume label so you can better distinguish it while it is plugged in to a system. If you prefer a quicker format, check the Quick Format option although this won’t be as thorough as a full reformat. After the format has completed, take note of the drive letter used by the USB thumb drive as we will need this information in the next step.
Now that our thumb drive has been prepared, it’s finally time to dump HBCD onto it. First we fire up the UNetbootin utility. It’s a self-executable so no installation is needed. Can it get any better?! Within the utility, rather than selecting a Linux distribution to install onto our thumb drive, select the “Diskimage” radio button at the bottom instead. Next you’ll want to point the location to your extracted HBCD ISO image that is on your Desktop. Finally, under Type, make sure that it is selected as USB Drive and that your USB drive letter is selected. That’s it!
Hit the OK button and the utility will do its thing. It will extract all the contents within the ISO image file into your thumb drive and it will then proceed to make the drive bootable.
At the end of the installation, UNetbootin will ask if you want to reboot the computer to test out the thumb drive. Cancel this request because there is one more step we need to do.
Booting into Mini Windows XP Mode
At this point in the process, we have a bootable thumb drive for HBCD but one big thing is missing. One of HBCD’s biggest selling point is being able to boot a system into what they call Mini Windows XP mode. However, after creating the bootable drive with UNetbootin, the option to boot into Mini Windows XP is missing from the boot menu option! Technically you don’t have to use this mode but trust me, you can do a lot more with HBCD if you do so. You can see from the screenshot below that the option to boot into Mini Windows XP is missing (there’s a second page but trust me, it’s not there as well).
In order to restore the option, we need to replace a certain file within our thumb drive. What you want to do is head into the root of the thumb drive and open up the HBCD folder. Within is a file called isolinux.cfg. Simply rename this file to syslinux.cfg. Next, cut the file (ctrl+x). Head back to the root of the drive. Here you will see another file called syslinux.cfg. We need to overwrite this file with the one we just renamed. If you want to, feel free to make a backup copy of the original syslinux.cfg file before overwriting it by just dragging the file to your desktop. Once done so, paste the new syslinux.cfg into this directory (ctrl+v). Click Yes when asked if you want to overwrite the file.
Credit goes here to the blogger who I got this fix from: http://blog.radevic.com/2012/04/hirens-boot-cd-using-unetbootin-missing.html
That’s it! We are finally done! We now have a bootable USB thumb drive loaded with the full version of HBCD.
Booting from the USB Drive
Once the computer boots from our thumb drive, you should be presented with the original HBCD boot options menu. At this point, you can go ahead and launch some of the tools right from within the boot menu. Because we did that little fix above, you should now see the option to load Mini Windows XP. We have successfully booted to HBCD via our USB thumb drive! Now you can go ahead and save the day for the poor unfortunate soul who thought their computer was gone for good.