Laptop won't boot - We apologize for the inconvience, but Windows ...

I'm trying to help a fried with laptop issues. This is a long distance effort, so I haven't seen and don't have access to the machine. But they have a Toshiba Satellite M55-S3314 running Windows XP.

When they turn on their computer they get the error: We apologize for the inconvenience, but Windows did not start successfully. A recent hardware or software change might have caused the problem. etc...

They have tried a number of boot options including start from last known good configuration. Every option they pick gets to the Windows XP splash screen but then restarts and returns to the error screen.

Data recovery is their prime concern at this point.

What should they try to get this working? They can't find their Toshiba recovery disks, but they did find some CDs for an 8 year old Sony Vaio desktop they have. Can they use those disks? Will they lost the data on their harddrive?

Can they create a boot CD/DVD with some sort of Linux distro and use that to boot onto the machine and get to the data?

Really appreciate any help.
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  1. The safest option is to remove the hard disk drive from the laptop and connect it to another computer using a USB drive adapter. Then they can copy the data the need and put the drive back in the laptop and reload an O/S.

    I say this is the safest method, because with distance support there is a big risk that they select the wrong option and wipe their drive trying to repair it. The adapter should cost under $30.00, but data recovery from a wiped disk will run much much more.
  2. Thanks for the advice. I suggested the same to them and talked them through removing the harddrive to double check its connections, and then helped them pick out a dock they could use to attach their laptop's harddrive to their other laptop. But the delivery time on the dock was over a week and they were impatient. So I gave them another solution. Below is the email I sent. They used the instructions to create a bootable Linux CD (using their other laptop), I opted for the small "Puppy Linux" distro. Then they booted the broken machine with that disc, connected an external harddrive, and copied off all the files they needed. After that they used the recovery discs to fix the broken machine, which as expected reformatted the machine in the process.

    Following are the links and instructions I sent them, hopefully someone else will find this usefull, too:

    Here's one other option: create a bootable CD/DVD running Linux to boot the laptop. Then connect your external harddrive and copy off any files you want to keep.

    A very small (so easy to put on CD) linux distro is here:
    The download page is here:

    There are instructions for creating the CD here:

    NOTE that the instructions say:
    "Note: Do not use default Windows burning software as it can not create a bootable live disc, what it will create is a data disc containing a copy of the ISO source file(s)."

    HOWEVER this is no longer true with Windows 7. Finally Microsoft gives you the ability to burn ISOs with Windows 7. A major plus. So you can ignore that Note and just use Windows 7.
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