If you are a computer technician, an advanced computer user or just someone that likes to try to sort out their own PC problems, one of the most important tools you can have at your disposal is a bootable repair CD. Repair discs have become hugely popular in recent years because if your computer won’t boot you can perform a number of repairs to the “offline” operating system straight from the CD.
One of the most popular and at the same time controversial boot CD’s throughout the years is called Hiren’s Boot CD. Released in 2004, Hiren’s Boot CD boasts a huge array of repair utilities and diagnostic tools that can help in a vast number of different situations. The controversial part of Hiren was the fact that for several years, a sizable portion of the software was commercial and downloading and using the CD was classed as illegal and using pirated software.
Thankfully, Hiren is updated periodically and from version 11 of the CD, the commercial software causing all the trouble was removed meaning it could be freely used without people accusing you of using software you shouldn’t be.
Here at Raymond.cc, we absolutely love Hiren’s Boot CD simply for how versatile it is and the amount of tasks it can perform to help you get things done. It always has been, and really still is the KING of all Boot CD’s. When you download the tool it is in ISO format, so you’ll need burning software such as Nero, Imgburn or Windows itself that supports burning ISO format. Once you successfully burn the ISO to a CD, pop it in to your CD-ROM and restart your computer. Make sure that you’ve set to boot from CDROM in your BIOS. I personally recommend that you burn it into a CD-RW because you won’t want to waste a CD-R every few months when the CD is updated with newer or better tools.
These days it’s not too difficult to write the ISO image to a USB stick and there is a guide on how to do this. Of course, we have covered a number of tools on the blog such as Sardu that can write the Hiren disc to USB for you with the minimum of fuss.
When you start up the Hiren disc, the program’s initial boot menu will be displayed. There are some hugely valuable and lifesaving tools available on this menu alone, so I’ll go through the most important. Boot From Hard Drive will simply continue booting your operating system (if it’s bootable!).
Mini Windows XP – Perhaps the most valuable feature on Hiren, this will boot up an almost fully functional Windows XP environment from where you can perform a number of tasks such as accessing and transferring files, resetting hard disk controller, virus removal, repairing and recovering data from problem partitions, remote registry editing and a whole lot more. There’s a vast number of Windows based tools available to run and covers almost every aspect of repairing and fixing your system.
Wired networking and Wifi internet access is available meaning you can also go online for downloads, cloud storage or extra information. All the included tools can be quickly accessed via the Hiren program launcher. There is also an added bonus here in that most of these tools can be used on an ordinary Windows system by simply inserting the CD/USB stick. A few of the programs can only run from a normal system such as Malwarebytes Antimalware.
Dos Programs – Although not quite as used as it once was, the Dos programs section has a number of Dos based versions of tools similar to those in the Mini XP. A number of OEM hard drive diagnostic tools and other hardware diagnostics, partitioning and backup tools, BIOS, Master Boot Record (MBR) and filesystem tools are available and can be very useful. Simply navigate through the menus using the keyboard and the number keys.
Linux based rescue environment – This will boot a highly popular Linux disc partitioning and data recovery environment called Parted Magic. The main tool is GParted which is a very well regarded hard drive partitioning and wiping tool which is also recommended by a number manufacturers for erasing SSD drives. Linux is often a valuable alternative to Windows when accessing damaged or corrupted partitions because it doesn’t have so many restrictions when reading the filesystem. There is a host of other partition tools in addition to a number of filesystem recovery and repair utilities.
Memtest86+ – This is the very first tool you should run if you suspect or have been advised that your system may have memory (RAM) issues. Memtest86+ is widely regarded as one of the very best tools for detecting memory errors.
Offline NT/2000/XP/Vista/7 Password Changer – A very useful Dos based tool that can clear or edit the passwords on your Windows install.
Kon-Boot – A little gem of a tool that can bypass a Windows password during logon by simply typing anything into the password box. This allows you to boot into Windows even if you don’t know or forgot the users password and don’t necessarily want to reset or change it.
Seagate DiscWizard – An old version of Acronis TrueImage which still functions perfectly well and does a good job of making a backup image of your system. Originally meant only for Seagate devices, but pressing a few keys while starting the program makes it available for all hard drives. You can use DiscWizard to make a backup image, restore an image back to the drive or partition and also prepare a newly installed hard drive.
Fix “NTLDR is missing” – If you receive the NTLDR missing error while trying to boot Windows XP, using this fix will place a new or overwrite a corrupt NTLDR file making the system bootable again. If you have other NTLDR or BOOTMGR related problems or boot errors, the system can be booted using these files straight off the CD using 2 options further down the menu.
For a complete list of the contents of Hiren’s Boot CD have a look on the website and click on “See CD Contents »” half way down the page. There are literally hundreds of tools included and even without the commercial software which was actually quite useful in itself, this disc is still the best around. If you only ever download 1 bootable repair CD, make sure it’s this one….