You know how annoying it can be when your computer is acting up. Maybe programs keep crashing or the system is running much slower than it should. A corrupt driver could be causing it to crash before it even starts.
Maybe the problem is faulty RAM. It could be you forgot your password and you're locked out of your account. Hunting down the problem isn't a cakewalk, even with the right tools and instructions. But that's still better than the situations where you can't use your computer at all.
Whatever the reason, that's the time you need a diagnostic boot CD handy. This loads up a separate operating system with pre-installed tools you can use to troubleshoot your main system. Fortunately, I know of one you can add to your "just-in-case" drawer.
It's called FalconFour's Ultimate Boot CD, or F4UBCD to save space. The entire thing fits on a CD, so it works on older computers that don't have DVD drives, but it has just about every option you could ask for.
Along with standard programs like CCleaner, Speccy, Recuva, Malwarebytes, TeraCopy, Memtest86, Firefox and Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder, it has several operating system choices from MiniXP to FreeDOS. It also includes partition tools, Dell and Seagate diagnostic tools and a Windows password changer.
Obviously, you need a bit of tech know-how to use this in an actual emergency situation. Fortunately, you can use the pre-installed Firefox to look up instructions for any of the tools included.
Disclaimer: Using these tools incorrectly can damage your software and possibly hardware. Use with caution.
You also need a bit of know-how to create the disk in the first place. I'll give you the basic instructions, but this program is ideal for experienced computer users.
To download the program, navigate to the F4UBCD site using my blue link button below and click the link where it says "Full v4.61 ISO download." Then wait for the site to load and click the red "Download" button.
Put your CD in the drive, start CDBurnerXP and drag the ISO into the program. Follow the instructions for burning the CD. When the CD is done burning, you're ready to use it.
If you'd rather make a bootable USB drive, you'll need another program like UNetbootin. Select the Diskimage option, set it to ISO and then browse to find the F4UBCD ISO file. Then choose your USB drive and click OK.
Once your CD or flash drive is prepared, insert it into your computer and start it up. You'll need to set your computer to boot from the CD or flash drive, and different computers have different ways of doing this. For example, many computers have you press F8 or F11 during startup to enter the boot menu.
From here, you can select your CD drive or a removable drive. You might need to press ESC, DEL or F2 during startup to enter the BIOS and change the Boot Options. Check your manual or contact your computer's tech support if you can't find the proper method for your computer.
Once you boot up F4UBCD, you'll see a number of options that are available. You can load up MiniXP to use a familiar Windows environment. If you suspect there's a hardware problem, Memtest86 is a good way to check.
For corrupted hard drives, Seagate DiscWizard or EASEUS Partition Master are good options. If you forgot your password, try the Offline NT/2000/XP/Vista/7 Password Changer option.
Final disclaimer: If at any point you don't know what something does, look it up online. Using these tools incorrectly will seriously damage your software and possibly hardware.