Boot from CD/USB/Floppy to access an NTFS partition

Here are some ways of booting from a USB drive or a CD or DVD and accessing files on an NTFS volume (for instance to delete the C:\pagefile.sys or C:\hiberfil.sys files before performing a backup). You may also just want to retrieve important files and copy them to a Flash drive before you reformat an unbootable PC's hard disk.

For this you will often need read/write access to an NTFS volume on the hard disk.

Some older systems don't boot well from USB, they may boot very slowly and even if they do boot to grub4dos they may not be able to load a large file from the USB drive. Your arsenal of tools should therefore include a bootable USB Flash drive, a ZalMan VE-200 or VE-300 with iso and disk images to allow you to emulate a USB CD/DVD/Floppy drive and finally, real shiny spinny CDs and DVDs (for systems which have a CD/DVD drive).

1. Hirens Boot CD - Mini XP (easiest!)

Hirens (see tab at top of page) is a large download, but it is well worth making a CD or making a bootable USB drive containing Hirens. It makes things so much easier!

    1. Burn a CD or make a bootable USB drive with Hirens on it.

    2. Boot to MiniXP

    3. You can now use XP Explorer to change/copy/edit files or reformat volumes, etc.

2. Hirens Boot CD - DOS

As above but navigate to a DOS session which supports NTFS as follows:

For Hirens 15.1 - Dos Programs - Next - NTFS Ext2FS, Ext3FS (Filesystem) Tools - NTFSDos 1.9

This DOS session is much quicker than the UBCD or the FreeDOS NTFS4DOS boot image options below.

3. Ultimate Boot CD

    1. Burn the ISo to a CD or make a bootable USB drive with UBCD on it and choose the Parted menu option - OR alternatively

    2. Select the NTFS tools DOS menu to boot to FreeDos with NTFS support. FileSystem Tools - NTFS Tool - Avira NTFS4DOS

    3. You can now use

    4. dir /ah to list hidden files

    5. del /pagefile.sys to delete the pagefile

4. Boot to DOS with NTFS4DOS support

Tip: Easy2Boot contains a 'Boot to FreeDOS' menu entry which allows you to access NTFS drives from DOS.

Download nc4ntfs (MSDOS 8) - load into WinImage and save as .IMA file if using with grub4dos\easy2boot.


Download the disk image for a 1.44MB FreeDOS disk (unzip to obtain the .img file). You can use WinImage to make a floppy disk or copy the disk image file (rename .img to .ima) to a Zalman VE-200/300 HDD caddy which will emulate a bootable USB floppy - or burn it to a CD with the img file as your floppy boot image - or make a bootable grub4dos USB drive with the following menu.lst contents:

title DOSNTFS boot floppy image

map --mem /fdosntfs.img.gz (fd0)

map --hook

root (fd0)

chainloader (fd0) || chainloader (fd0)/kernel.sys

When this image boots, hit Enter when prompted (or 0,1 2 or 3) and then wait for the checkdisk to complete, the type in 'Yes' after the annoying, animated graphics has finished. Do not be tempted to hit any other key or you won't get NTFS access. This is a version of the discontinued and unsupported Avira NTFS4DOS Personal 1.9 which provides read/write access to NTFS volumes under FreeDOS - use it at your own risk!

5. Boot to WinPE v2 or v3

If you have a Vista or later Windows Install DVD, then try booting to the command shell (or hit SHIFT+F10) and then using Notepad - File Open to explore the NTFS HDD files.

If you have a Vista or Win7 version of WinPE, then try booting to that, either from a USB Flash drive or USB hard disk or from CD.

Diskpart in WinPE 2 or 3 can be used to extend or shrink partitions as well as delete or create them. This is often useful if you want to shrink an XP volume on a hard disk in order to make room for a new Win7/8 partition.

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