July 28, 2011, 9:00 AM —
It's an absolute nightmare: You're on your way to a client meeting, only to find out that your PC won't boot. Windows just died. Maybe the boot loader shows you an error message; maybe it gives you the Black or Blue Screen of Death. And you've got only one hour to fix things and get your PC up and running again.
"Try safe mode!" or "Do a startup repair!" -- these are the usual pieces of wisdom you think about when Windows fails to boot. In some cases, this just doesn't get the job done. This article will go a step further: We'll show you how to get your PC up and running in no time and how to be properly prepared for this worst case scenario, everywhere you go.
Prepare for the worst
I've experienced my ugly share of Windows boot problems over the years: I've seen my laptop working perfectly fine at home, only for it to inexplicably quit on me when I try to start it up on an airplane a mere two hours later. That's why, wherever I travel, I'm prepared for a total crash of my machine -- and you should be too.
Create a Windows image
Keep an up-to-date image of your entire machine on a portable USB disk drive, and take it everywhere you go. There are some great third-party tools out there, but I tend to use Windows' built-in solution, which is available only on Vista or Windows 7. It gets the job done and is built into the startup repair tools (more on which in a moment). You'll find it right under Control Panel -> System and Security -> Backup and Restore -> Create a system image. XP users don't have this option, but there are a number of applications that will do the trick.