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How to Combine Rescue Disks to Create the Ultimate Windows Repair Disk

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We’ve covered loads of different anti-virus, Linux, and other boot disks that help you repair or recover your system, but why limit yourself to just one? Here’s how to combine your favorite repair disks together to create the ultimate repair toolkit for broken Windows systems—all on a single flash drive.

The ones we’ve covered already? Here’s a quick list of all the ways you can recover your system with a rescue disk:

If you need to clean up an infected system, we’d absolutely recommend the BitDefender CD, since it’s auto-updating. Best bet? Create your ultimate boot disk with as many of the different utilities as your flash drive can hold.

Creating Your Own Custom Rescue Disk: Prepare Your Drive

To create the rescue disk, you’re going to want a USB flash drive with a decent amount of space—for our purposes, 2 GB is the minimum size, but you’d be better off with something a little bigger if you want to put a lot of repair disks on it, especially the larger ones.

Once you’ve picked out your drive, the first thing you’ll need to do? Format your drive as FAT32. That’s right, the software we’re going to use requires the FAT32 file system, so right-click on the drive and select Format from the menu.

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Choose FAT32 from the drop-down menu under File system, and then click Format.

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Create the Custom Rescue Drive: Download ISOs and Copy Files

To create the custom drive, we’ll use a small piece of software called SARDU, which combines a bunch of functionality into a single package—you can use it to download the ISO images, write everything to the USB drive, or create an ISO image that you could burn to an optical disc—though obviously you’re space-limited in that case.

Once you download and extract SARDU, you can simply start clicking on any of the buttons to trigger a download of that rescue disk.

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There’s a whole bunch of utilities included, including really useful ones like Gparted and the System Rescue CD, Ophcrack, and others.

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And you can use it to directly download Ubuntu as well.

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Or you can download the ISO images separately and put them into the ISO folder (you’ll have to restart the application once you’re done).

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All done? click the Make a USB button over on the right-hand side…

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And everything will be created and copied to the drive.

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That’s pretty much all there is to that.

Using Your Customized Rescue Drive

Just plug the disk into an available port, and choose the option to boot from USB—you may have to take a trip into the BIOS settings to enable booting from removable drives, or you might have to hit a key during bootup to display the boot options menu, where you can choose the device to boot from.

Once you do successfully boot from the flash drive, you’ll see a menu like this:

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Select any of the categories, and you’ll see all the rescue disks or other disks that you’ve put on your drive:

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Just like that, you’re booting your rescue disk.

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Enjoy your awesome rescue disk.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 01/5/11

Comments (64)

  1. Z S

    Thanks so much!! looking for a tool like this for a long time.

  2. Hatryst

    How-To of the month !!
    I wondered if it was possible, and it is :)

  3. LePeR

    Another is XBoot if anyones curious

  4. Daryl

    Excellent article – will be trying this later, thanks!

  5. emik

    best of the best ! thanks

  6. pitman

    Can I make one from any ISO’s I have or is it just from what is available ?

  7. Nav

    THANK YOU!! Quite nice

  8. mickeyblue

    AWESOME SIMPLY AWESOME!!!!!

  9. tkv

    I prefer xboot to create bootable ISO’s, simply because it supports the Paragon Disk utility. However it is very slow during boot…don’t know about the speed of other multiboot options though.

  10. AnonymousMe

    “This Flash Drive is now the Ultimate Power in the Universe! I suggest we use it.” :)

  11. Ron

    Sounds great, (I haven’t had a chance to try it yet).

    Question, after installing these ISO’s will we be able to update the anti-malware signatures?

  12. ilias

    can we use two different version of ophcrack at the same usb ?

  13. ashish

    Hi….

    the system in this screenshot is Mac or what???

    can a mac be used to install windows and ubuntu over it?

  14. David Packard

    @Ron
    Yes, at least with Panda and Avira with almost any card with wired connection…

  15. kjm

    Whaooo… it is a big tools!
    En tous cas une bonne et heureuse année à tous!

  16. Juan Pablo

    Congratulations… ;)

  17. null

    can we use this to comibe hiren boot cd with other tools ?

  18. Keith

    It won’t recognize that the Windows 7 rescue iso files are there, so it won’t copy them to the rescue iso

  19. dave

    Using Win7 it won’t work without Administrator privileges. I had a USB stick plugged in set to Readyboost.(my machine is maxed at 2 gig memory). It first claimed there was no USB installed, I had to eject the readyboost stick. Then it recognized an L drive (readyboost again) and an M drive, (the stick I wanted to install to.) but refused to move away from the L drive. Again had to shut down and restart.
    Not that impressed.

  20. Jennifer

    This is a great tool. Adding it to my arsenel. The program is a little flaky, but it got the job done in the end.

  21. Jennifer

    *arsenal

  22. dave

    Tried the USB stick on 3 separate systems, no go.

    Burned a DVD it worked fine.

  23. Steve O

    This is GREAT! Worked on my kingston 16gb drive like a CHAMP!

    Awesome find. Is there a way to split the partition in two 8’s so I can have some storage too?

  24. Andy

    I think I love you.

  25. Davide Costa

    Very thanks for review. Today i release a new beta version with Windows XP and Seven Install.

    @Ron: Almost all databases updated of anti-virus can be download in ram from the Antivirus options after the boot
    @ ilias: Yes. Ophcrack adds all tables to all the single version. . If you want you can download the TABLES in folder “\ISO\Tables”. SARDU adds all TABLES and works fine with only a Ophcrack used with space saving
    @ashish SARDU is only for windows and don’t works with wine :(
    @null: Yes, SARDU manahe Hiren’s boot CD (without button but …)
    @Keith: Check the name of PE
    @Steve O : use RMPrepUSB
    @Dave wtite me a mail for solve your problems

  26. paleolith

    Punctilious programmer by day, gallivanting geek by night, this wily wizard of technology and software is unequivocally the Guru of Geeks.

  27. Xps86

    I was looking for something like this.

    @AnonymousMe: Best Comment Ever! You beat me to it.

  28. OCC_Sean

    Great article and what a killer tool to find!!

    Thanks

  29. t3chie

    For a second there…I thought I was in heaven….All hail SARDU!

  30. Humberto

    thanks .. good article =)

  31. sidiiq

    I was just wondering, if i update bitdefender rescue; will it still hold the update the next time i boot it.??

  32. one world

    Hi….I’m just curious how this compares to MultiSystem….discussed by How To Geek back on the 3rd of Jan. Anyone know? Anyone tried both?

  33. David

    Very neat…
    – If only…. the concept of adding your ‘own’ (not on the menu provided) iso’s needs work.. it’s not fully supported or easy.

    1. Add the iso to the ‘Extra’ folder (in the application’s iso folder)
    2. edit ‘extra.cfg’ – er – how? There are 2 or 3 examples, but these really don’t help, leaving this as yet effectively unusable as far as I can see. Just needs clear definition of the script terms…

  34. dave

    Just wanted to throw out a thanks to Davide Costa, he to the time to help me resolve my USB issue and pointed me towards a new app for my toolbox.

  35. Davide Costa

    @ David: Section extra is born when people asked me of to can add to SARDU the own previous work. EXTRA.cfg was a bridge for connected SARDU to the remaining. Those who are familiar isolinux, grub or other with this method have endless potential. Who does not know them, find all reponse in the forum reboot.pro.

    @ Dave: Now works fine all?

  36. DINESH DESAI

    SARDU, AT BEST, CAN BE DESCRIBED AS A MULTI UTILITY REPAIR DISK, BUT THERE IS NO GUARANTEE THAT IT WOULD RESCUE A WHOLE SYSTEM. IT DOES NOT WORK WITH WINDOWS 7 AND IT CERTAINLY IS NOT AN ULTIMATE BOOT DISK. AFTER CREATING A SARDU USB REPAIR DISK, SEVERAL ATTEMPTS TO BOOT FROM IT WERE UNSUCCESSFUL ON A USB DRIVE. EACH TIME, WINDOWS 7 DID NOT RECOGNIZE IT AS A VALID, SYSTEM DISK. IT SEEMS THAT SARDU LACKS A BOOTING MEDIUM COMPATIBLE WITH WINDOWS 7. FOR THAT REASON, WINDOWS REJECTS IT.

  37. Nayzaw

    So..I can’t ask for Question? These USB what for where for use? Can u explain for me?Plz….

  38. Davide Costa

    @DINESH DESAI : Why all caps? SARDU is used with windows Seven without problems. Can you explain me your problems? You are administrator? SARDU have made the USB? You have tested the USB with MobaLiveCD? If it works the problem is in your hardware. SARDU use syslinux and syslinux don’t is compatible with all hardware.I have blame? Wait feedback. I hope to resolve your problem.

    @Nayzaw you can boot your PC from USB and….

  39. Anonymous Me

    @XPS86: Wow, thanks! I was starting to wonder if anyone would get that reference…
    :-D

  40. raith

    I am having some dificulty getting the iso images for the windows PE tab section, specifically livexp, windowspe, ubcd4win, vistape and win7pe, the sites they lead to don’t seem to have an ISO or IMG file and the files they do offer don’t seem to be compatible, the check boxes don’t become enabled when i move the files I found into the iso folder and I cannot find the ISO in a Google search.

  41. Davide Costa

    @raith Windows PE aren’t legally redistributable. The links are for Winbuilder and Pebuilder. This builder with your copy of windows make the Windows PE.

  42. raith

    thanks. So I run that to make an ISO of the OS that I’m using or do I need an ISO to start with that will be modified?

  43. Davide Costa

    @raith some are based on the operating system, other on CD in the drive, others with iso, you should try

  44. gftd

    Thanks for this–it’s a very useful tool. FYI, I can’t get Sardu to recognize the Vista 64bit recovery iso. I’ve downloaded it a couple of times and have verified that it resides in Sardu’s ISO directory, but the check mark does not appear. I downloaded the other four entries in the Win Recovery Disk section, and they do show as being enabled. I don’t know what else to do to troubleshoot this issue. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks.

  45. Davide Costa

    @gftd The name of iso is Windows_Vista_x64_Recovery_Disc.iso ?

  46. wkmroch

    Sardu for me was a program full of bugs. It would not allow me to search for a usb. It locked up when search usb was executed. I could not create a bootable USB with Sardu. The idea of having all these utilities and system recovery tools in one location is great. I finally gave up with Sardu and found xboot. Xboot operated almost the same as Sardu is supposed to without all the bugs. Xbox is freeware and has many more utilities at its disposal. Check it out.

  47. gftd

    @Davide Costa:

    Things have gotten a little stranger since I wrote my original email. After restarting the software many times (~10), the check mark finally appeared, only to disappear the next time and then reappear again after a few restarts . The whole “Win Recovery Disk” section seems a little flaky. What’s particularly weird is that even though the check mark for the Vista64 recovery iso is intermittent, the actual iso IS included on the USB drive. What’s NOT included on the USB drive is the Vista32 recovery iso, even though its check mark always appears. Everything else seems to be working ok.

    The x64 name is Windows_Vista_x64_Recovery_Disc.iso
    The x32 name is Windows_Vista_Recovery_Disc.iso

  48. Davide Costa

    @wkmroch excuse me but your participation is false and misleading. Can a software freeware to have 1.200.000 copies and to be full of bug? Why you don’t mention them? SARDU and XBOOT are tho project completely different. First because XBOOT is like SARDU and not vice versa. SARDU don’t map ISOs, SARDU extract all files… is much faster. SARDU don’t use framework or others software. If you have a old PC SARDU works fine, XBOOT…. don’t start (framework) or is very slow. XBOOT manage
    Windows PE? Manage install of XP?

    Look forward to the list of bugs.

  49. chris

    I am having trouble getting the pe builders and the livexp programs to work, could anyone direct me to a good tutorial on these, I tried google already but no luck. this is a great program but it could use some more instructions at some points, especially the windows pe section.

  50. Davide Costa

    @chris For Windows PE there are too many variables. My advice is to go to the website of winbuilder or of UBCD4Win or of Bart’s PE

  51. bill c.

    all are useless because you can not update virus definitions after booting from cd.

  52. Davide Costa

    @bill c.
    You can update the database with a internet connection. This limit is of Rescue CD

  53. Cindy

    You focus mostly on burning to a USB drive but are the steps for burning to a DVD or CD the same? you say you can do something called ISO but I’m not sure what that is.

    Please list step by step instructions for burning to a CD or DVD.

    Thank you

  54. Davide Costa

    Test the iso with MobaLiveCD. After burn the iso slowly or with SARDU or with a software who burn the iso.

  55. Rob

    You might want to make a note that you should do “search USB” prior to clicking the make USB button because at times the drive (above the make USB button) will be grayed out even with a drive connected. Once you click search it will find the drive and allow you to select it prior to hitting the make USB button.

    It works fine in 7 and if you are too inept to figure out how to get it to select your drive you have no business running these tools in the first place. I only suggest adding the above to the article so that those of us that weren’t born yesterday don’t waste time figuring it out for ourselves.

  56. brooksters

    is it possible to create a new partition on my portable hard drive then format only the new partition, load the rescue stuff to the new partition and then be able to boot from the selected partition on the portable drive ?

  57. Davide Costa

    @Rob i can add the search usb function when user press Make USB Button and the USB isn’t conected..

    @brooksters personally i use one hard disk (2,5) with a partition FAT32 (30 Gb) and other partition NTFS.
    For me it is the best solution.

  58. Orangel.H

    Great tool, but did not work for me … I placed my ISOs in the folder, checked the names, I started the APP (I saw the marks of the ISOs in the folder), but when I press the button “Make a USB”, ends the process by showing the following LOG::
    .
    .
    .
    Start creating Sardu for USB!
    Making SARDU
    ——————————————————————————————
    AVG Rescue CD : avg_Rescue_CD_-_AVG_Rescue_CD_10.0.100.826a3693_(CD).iso
    ——————————————————————————————
    7-Zip 9.20 Copyright (c) 1999-2010 Igor Pavlov 2010-11-18
    Error:
    cannot find archive
    7-Zip 9.20 Copyright (c) 1999-2010 Igor Pavlov 2010-11-18
    Error:
    cannot find archive
    7-Zip 9.20 Copyright (c) 1999-2010 Igor Pavlov 2010-11-18
    Error:
    cannot find archive
    7-Zip 9.20 Copyright (c) 1999-2010 Igor Pavlov 2010-11-18
    Error:
    cannot find archive
    ——————————————————————————————
    7-Zip 9.20 Copyright (c) 1999-2010 Igor Pavlov 2010-11-18
    Error:
    cannot find archive
    ——————————————————————————————
    Clonezilla : clonezilla-live_-_Acronis_Rescue_Media_Boot_CD.iso
    ——————————————————————————————
    7-Zip 9.20 Copyright (c) 1999-2010 Igor Pavlov 2010-11-18
    Error:
    cannot find archive
    7-Zip 9.20 Copyright (c) 1999-2010 Igor Pavlov 2010-11-18
    Error:
    cannot find archive
    7-Zip 9.20 Copyright (c) 1999-2010 Igor Pavlov 2010-11-18
    Error:
    cannot find archive
    7-Zip 9.20 Copyright (c) 1999-2010 Igor Pavlov 2010-11-18
    Error:
    cannot find archive
    7-Zip 9.20 Copyright (c) 1999-2010 Igor Pavlov 2010-11-18
    Error:
    cannot find archive
    ——————————————————————————————
    Hiren’s Boot CD : Hiren_s.BootCD.12.0.iso
    ——————————————————————————————
    7-Zip 9.20 Copyright (c) 1999-2010 Igor Pavlov 2010-11-18
    Error:
    cannot find archive
    ——————————————————————————————
    Ubuntu : ubuntu-10.10-desktop-i386.iso
    ——————————————————————————————
    7-Zip 9.20 Copyright (c) 1999-2010 Igor Pavlov 2010-11-18
    Error:
    cannot find archive
    7-Zip 9.20 Copyright (c) 1999-2010 Igor Pavlov 2010-11-18
    Error:
    cannot find archive
    7-Zip 9.20 Copyright (c) 1999-2010 Igor Pavlov 2010-11-18
    Error:
    cannot find archive
    7-Zip 9.20 Copyright (c) 1999-2010 Igor Pavlov 2010-11-18
    Error:
    cannot find archive
    ——————————————————————————————
    Install Windows XP : Install_XP_pro_-_WinXP.Sp3.Custom.iso
    ——————————————————————————————
    7-Zip 9.20 Copyright (c) 1999-2010 Igor Pavlov 2010-11-18
    Error:
    cannot find archive
    7-Zip 9.20 Copyright (c) 1999-2010 Igor Pavlov 2010-11-18
    Error:
    cannot find archive
    7-Zip 9.20 Copyright (c) 1999-2010 Igor Pavlov 2010-11-18
    Error:
    cannot find archive

    Terminate extracting files from Install Windows Windows XP
    ——————————————————————————————
    Copying files
    Elapsed time: 00:00:04
    ——————————————————————————————
    Finished copy
    ——————————————————————————————
    Construction of the menu is running!
    ——————————————————————————————
    SARDU for USB successfully created!
    ——————————————————————————————
    .
    .
    .
    Am I doing something wrong?

  59. Davide Costa

    You use old version of SARDU with bug of path with space.
    Update your version of SARDU to 2.0.2a

  60. Soroush

    THANKS. VERY VERY GOOD. VERY COOL. THANK YOU

  61. Tracker

    Davide,
    Thank you for this tool but:
    Sardu builds the CD\DVD just fine and everything runs perfectly. All ok here.

    Sardu builds the USB jusk fine. USB boots ok(after bios setting of course). Then some progs run ok and some fail to run.
    I’m mainly concerned with progs I have running from the ‘ubcd\custom’ folder.(ISO & IMZ )
    Eg: Acronis TI and DD rescue media in the ubcd\custom folder. They start to load(very very slow for about 2 minutes) then fail and system reboots.
    Also ubcd4w starts to load (v-v-slow) then fails and system reboots.
    Others fail also.
    I have tried loading some of these iso (extracting) into Sardu\extra folder but same thing happens.

    I’m using an USB 8gb Sandisk Cruzer. Have also tried others (one a 64gb) with same result. Sardu is 2.0.2c
    What is wrong please? Remember DVD is fine.

  62. david

    geek,
    my anti virus program was guessing that sardu was acting in a malicious way, should i be worried? and if it is fine, do you have any idea why its getting flagged? av is comodo.

  63. JJJ

    Can you use a dvd instead of a flash drive? If so, what type of formatting do you use, because fat32 option is not available with the dvd. THanks

  64. Pho da bomb

    What is the Win7 (x86 & x64) recovery disc file name?

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