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My computer won’t boot and I’m being advised to reformat, but that will erase my data. What do I do?


My Asus program disappeared and I cannot reinstall it. The Asus technicians
do not know what to do about it except for reinstalling Asus OS and Win 7. Of
course, I will lose all my files. Any suggestions?

In this excerpt from
Answercast #53
, I look at a failing machine that needs the operating system
reinstalled… retrieving the data is the problem.

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Reinstall operating system

I’m not really sure what you mean by your “Asus program” disappeared. If you
mean that you can’t boot your Asus machine, then that’s a problem and it would
probably only be resolved by reinstalling the operating system.

The problem is if you’re about to lose data when that happens, that tells
me that you have not been backing up.

This is one of the reasons I so frequently and consistently almost harp on
people about backing up and backing up regularly. Because if that data is in
only one place (i.e. it’s only on this Asus machine), then you may encounter a
scenario where the only way to fix a problem is to erase everything on that
machine. Now, a backup would solve that, right?

Had you had a backup prior to these problems happening, you would have a
safe copy of your data somewhere else that you could restore after you resolve
the problem on your Asus machine.

Retrieve your data

So, what I’m going to suggest you look into is grabbing something like a
live CD. Ubuntu Linux comes distributed on a Live

What that means is: it’s a CD you can insert into your machine (assuming it
has a CD drive) and you can boot from it. That running operating system will
then allow you to examine the contents of your hard disk and copy off the data
that you care about, the data that you want to preserve.

Ultimately, I honestly do believe that the Asus representatives are correct.
Whatever is happening to your machine (and like I said, it’s a little unclear
exactly what is failing), but whatever is happening on your machine, if it’s
leading them to suggest that you should probably reformat and reinstall, then
I’m going to agree: you probably need to reformat and reinstall.

Recover data from the disk

The best way to recover your data again is a live CD. Boot from that, grab
the data off of there, copy it to some other device so that you have the data
before you reformat the hard disk.

Replacement hard drive

I suppose another alternative (if the data is important enough to you) is to
actually get yourself a new hard drive at this time:

  • Replace the hard drive in your Asus with this new one;

  • Install everything to this new hard drive;

  • Then place your old hard drive (which has the data that you’re trying to
    preserve) into something like an external USB enclosure.

  • Now, you can now attach that external USB drive to any PC you have and
    presumably, you’ll then be able to copy off the data that you care about from

Above all, after this is all resolved… after you’ve got a working machine,
after you’ve recovered your data, please start backing up! A backup would have
saved you an immense amount of trouble had you been doing so from the

Do this

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2 comments on “My computer won’t boot and I’m being advised to reformat, but that will erase my data. What do I do?”

  1. I had a bad system crash and couldn’t boot. I had to reinstall Win 7 from the backup partition. I had been backing up with Windows Backup to a different hard drive, but Backup wouldn’t load any of the images.

    I tried several recovery programs. The only one that worked was MiniTool Power Data Recovery. I now have over 1000 files labelled file1, file2, etc., but at least I have my data back.

    From now on, it’s Macrium, with a new 4Tb disk to back up to.

  2. I recently had a computer that stopped booting. I tried everything I could think of but nothing worked. A friend suggested reformatting. To make a long story short I opened the computer and unpluged everything and repluged it. Computer working great again. This doesn’t always work but is worth a try sometimes before loosing everything.


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