Introduction – Cloud Storage VS Local Storage
This guide is mainly for those who have installed Windows 7, 8.1 or 10 and have not backed up their files to OneDrive Cloud Storage using an Office 365 subscription and have encountered a problem where Windows cannot boot either due to a software issue or due to drive failure*.
- This guide will not work for Windows 10 Pro Installations made using Microsoft Accounts on new hardware with a m.2 SSD because by default Microsoft will set such a configuration up to encrypt the m.2 SSD using Bitlocker. These configurations will in most cases use OneDrive with Office 365 and files in the Desktop, Documents, Pictures, Musics and Videos folders should automatically save to OneDrive.
- Systems with Windows 10 Home do not have Bitlocker and the Drive won't be encrypted although if one sets up Microsoft Windows with a Microsoft Account files in the Desktop, Documents, Pictures, Musics and Videos folders should automatically save to OneDrive and this guide should hence be unnecessary.
* Results will vary depending on how badly the Drive is damaged.
You require a working computer, a USB Flash Drive and a USB External Hard Drive.
USB Flash Drive
If you need a USB Flash Drive please click see more and use the affiliate links below for Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. These will help fund the website costs for my installation guides.
These are the USB Flash Drives I have tested (there is no point getting a larger capacity USB flash drive for Windows Installation Media as you need to format the USB as FAT32 and the ISO is far less than 16 GB, usually closer to 4 GB):
External USB Hard Drive
I recommend a 2 TB External Hard Drive. These ones are powered solely by the USB.
USB Type C to USB 3.0 Connectors
If your computer is brand new and only has USB Type-C connectors then you may need a USB Type C to USB adaptor. I used these on my XPS 13 9365 (please use the affiliate links to help fund my guides).
If you need to replace your drive due to drive failure see my guide Upgrading to a SSD. However do not attempt to replace the SSD until you have attempted to recover the data from the old drive.
Test PC Windows 10
I have an OptiPlex 7040 test PC:
Signed in with a Local Account and with a Password Set:
The C:\ Drive is not encrypted:
The main user folders are these 6.
I am going to emulate Data Recovery using Linux Fedora, this can be because of a botched Windows Update causing a Boot issue or because of Drive Failure or because I forgot the Password that I just set…
Downloading Fedora and Making a Bootable USB Flash Drive
You will need a working computer to Download the Fedora ISO and make a Bootable USB.
Visit the Fedora website to download a Fedora ISO image.
Although we are making a Fedora Bootable USB in Windows, paradoxically we shouldn't select the tool for Windows as it assumes you are going to use the USB on the same computer and not take it to another computer. Instead select View all platforms:
Select Linux, to get the Installation ISO:
The ISO will download:
Once it's done, download Rufus, we will use this to check the installation ISO Checksums and make a Bootable USB:
Double click the Rufus setup to launch it:
Accept the User Account Control Prompt:
Select your Fedora ISO and select Open:
The ISO name will be shown at the bottom:
Select the check button to computer the installation ISO Checksums:
Copy the MD5 and select OK:
Paste and Search into Google:
A search is found, meaning the installation ISO is not unique and hence is likely not corrupt:
Since we are going to make the Bootable USB to use a Fedora Live USB and not going to install Fedora, we do not need to change the Partition Scheme to GPT. Instead we can leave it as MBR and it will work on all computers manufactured in 2008 or later.
Select Write in ISO Image Mode and press OK:
You will Format your USB Flash Drive. Select OK to do so:
Rufus will make the Bootable USB:
When it's done it will say Ready you can close Rufus.
Booting from Fedora and Starting a Fedora Live Installation
Insert your USB Flash Drive into your problem computer. Ensure it is powered on and press [F12] to get the the Boot Menu. If using a non-Dell PC it may be [Esc] or another Function Key:
Press the [↓] key until you get to your USB Flash Drive under a UEFI Boot and press [Enter]:
You will see the Dell UEFI BIOS Splash screen again:
Now you will be taken to the Fedora Boot Menu. Use the default option "Test this Media & Start Fedora-Workstation-Live":
You will see some information screens:
On the next screen select Try Fedora – Do Not select Install to Hard Drive:
Select Close when it tells you, you can Install to Hard Drive Later;
You will now be on the Fedora Live Desktop:
First we need to mount the Windows Partition as Read Only. Go to Activities and then Show Applications:
Select your OS Boot Drive. In my case it is this 128 SSD:
Windows will be on the largest partition, so I will select this:
Then I will select the Options:
The following Menu should show. Note if Edit Mount Options is greyed out, it means the Drive is encrypted with Bitlocker and you won't be able to proceed:
Change the User Session Defaults Off:
Append the following line with a:
This stands for read only.
Now we can go to Activities and File Explorer:
To get to your OS Boot Drive, you will need to select Other Locations:
Here I see the 127 GB Volume:
I'm going to snap it to the right hand side:
On the left hand side, I'll open another instance of File Explorer by right Clicking File Explorer and selecting New Window:
Here I'll select the WD External Hard Drive:
On the OS Boot Drive select Users:
Then your Username:
Locate Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures and Videos:
Drag and Drop these to the External Hard Drive:
It may appear like nothing is happening for a while, eventually you will get a notification the files are copied across:
You can check out the contents of the 6 folders:
App Data Folder
From feedback in my old version of the guide, others recommended copying the AppData folder (as Outlook Data Files are stored here, alongside Chrome Bookmarks and Firefox), Favourites (for IE/Edge only) and Saved Games Folder:
The AppData folder may have some files that it can't copy across. Select Skip All.
You should be able to get what you need from the External Hard Drive Now:
Outlook Data Files
Google Chrome Bookmarks should be in
There should be a folder called
For more details in reusing
Firefox Bookmarks should be in
Steam and EA Origin
For Steam Backup the
For details in reusing the
folder see Steam Game Installation Files.
For EA Origin Backup the
For details in reusing the
folder see EA Origin Game Installation Files.