I should have backed up my files. Now I'm stuck in DOS.
July 31, 2005 6:35 PM   Subscribe

How do I backup lots of files in DOS (Windows "recovery" mode)?

Here's the whole story: I've got a corrupted hard drive on my laptop. And I didn't do a backup. It seems, either for better or worse, that just the Windows system directory is gone. Or at least that's what is affecting things now.

I've gone through trying CHKDSK and other sorts of things and with the help of the online chat with HP/Compaq we've determined I need to reinstall the OS. Great, can do - but I want to save my music, and documents and pictures!

In the recovery mode, which is basically DOS, I can see that the computer recognizes my external USB drive (bought it a little late, I guess). I know I could type copy \file.xxx d: or whatever, but that only works for single files. XCOPY sounds like the perfect option, but that doesn't seem to be a recognized command. (Can I download that or something?) BACKUP doesn't seem to be available either (I typed HELP to see the available commands).

Tips, instructions, files to download...step by steps would be appreciated. Or...should I just take it to Best Buy (I have the protection plan) and risk them forking it up?

posted by clgregor to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
I use DSL to do basic data recovery. I used it to back stuff up to a network drive. Althought this would be contingent on you already having the DSL CD to start the process...
posted by boo_radley at 6:55 PM on July 31, 2005

"copy *.*" will copy all files. * is the universal wildcard and ? is a single letter wildcard. You can copy a whole directory like this: "copy c:\music d:\recover\music" This assumes that the target directory already exists. I don't think you can sweep in sub-directories with the simple copy command. I think you will need to copy each subdirectory manually. Xcopy would allow copying directories. Don't you have a copy of xcopy.exe available on another computer? Don't use DOS backup; it is useless.
posted by caddis at 7:04 PM on July 31, 2005

I mean xcopy will allow copying directories along with their sub-directories.
posted by caddis at 7:06 PM on July 31, 2005

The recovery console is not actually DOS. I think you will find that a lot of commands you would expect to be there are not. I seem to recall that you can only read/write to the root dir and Windows dir.

My advice, boot a Knoppix live linux CD (or BartPE live Windows CD) and just copy away.
posted by Rhomboid at 7:38 PM on July 31, 2005

From http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=314058:

Restrictions and limitations of the Recovery Console
When you use the Windows Recovery Console, you can use only the following items:
• The root folder
• The %SystemRoot% folder and the subfolders of the Windows installation that you are currently logged on to
• The Cmdcons folder
• The removable media drives such as the CD-ROM drive or the DVD-ROM drive

posted by Rhomboid at 7:41 PM on July 31, 2005

I don't know anything about Linux...where could I get a bootable Linux CD and how would I copy from within that? Could i download some Linux stuff (where?) and burn my own CD?
posted by clgregor at 7:41 PM on July 31, 2005

Is there a way to copy files without being in teh recovery console?
posted by clgregor at 7:43 PM on July 31, 2005

I agree regarding Knoppix. Go to Knoppix.net and Knoppix.org
You can either download a 700 meg file or you can buy a copy for $5 or you can fork over $30 and buy the Knoppix Hacks book (like I did). I retrived all of my files before I had to reformat. I didnt know anything about Linux before this and Knoppix is super easy to use (the book helped). Good Luck
posted by nimsey lou at 9:54 PM on July 31, 2005

Knoppix is the gold standard in live CDs, but you don't necessarily need the 800lb gorilla in this case. There is an entire ecosystem of bootable linux live CDs. Here is one line: http://www.frozentech.com/content/livecd.php. Pretty much any of those will let you boot the system and copy files between any attached devices. The ones marked "recovery" and/or "forensics" will most likely be your best bet. The larger ones in that list (like Knoppix) include all sorts of desktop applications that you can also run from the CD -- word processing, web browsing, you name it. You don't really need any of that, so any of the smaller recovery disks should do fine.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:12 AM on August 1, 2005

Oh and as to the "how", it depends on the details of the liveCD. But most of those should boot into a GUI (either KDE or GNOME) and you can use the file browser to just drag and drop.

You can also use the command line. "cp -pr /path1 /path2" would probably be the basic command to use. The paths would depend on where the drives are mounted, you can type "mount" to see. -p preserves file times, -r copies recursively.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:16 AM on August 1, 2005

If you've never used Linux before and plan to use the live CD route you could always see if there's a local Linux Users Group (LUG) near you with a member willing to pop round and lend you a hand in return for beer or something.
posted by edd at 3:30 AM on August 1, 2005

I just bought a Knoppix CD, so we'll see where that gets me when it arrives. I'm assuming it is just a bootable CD?
posted by clgregor at 6:36 AM on August 1, 2005

You got it! just pop it in and your partitions will show up. While I was waiting for the 700 mg file to download I spent some time looking around at Knoppix.org and .net
It made me more comfortable when I actually loaded it. Just dig around online for Knoppix info. Make sure that you have some where to move your files to (ie. 2nd cdr/dvdr or usb memory stick or FAT drive)
posted by nimsey lou at 8:09 AM on August 1, 2005

Follow-up report: the Knoppix CD worked perfectly to copy the 13 GB of music and documents on the computer to the external drive in about an hour by firewire. Now, we find that the internal hard drive is dead, so it is good that I got the files off, as we'll just take the computer to Best Buy and get the drive replaced under warranty.

Thanks for all your help!
posted by clgregor at 12:51 PM on August 5, 2005

Dowload of The Day: BartPE

BartPE is a free utility that lets you build a live CD-based copy of Windows XP that can be used for data recovery.

Bart’s PE Builder helps you build a “BartPE” (Bart Preinstalled Environment) bootable Windows CD-Rom or DVD from the original Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 installation/setup CD, very suitable for PC maintenance tasks.

It will give you a complete Win32 environment with network support, a graphical user interface (800x600) and FAT/NTFS/CDFS filesystem support. Very handy for burn-in testing systems with no OS, rescuing files to a network share, virus scan and so on.
BartPE (copied directly from Lifehacker)
posted by clgregor at 10:39 AM on August 10, 2005

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