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Someone whom I love but who cannot be trusted with a live internet connection downloaded a particularly nasty virus that in turn downloaded a variety of unknown other viruses onto my home computer. The computer now freezes completely a few seconds after reaching the desktop and is unresponsive to any keyboard or mouse command.

There are videos of my little kid on this hard drive that are not backed up and that I cannot bear to lose. But if I could get in there long enough to copy them off to an external drive I would have no problem doing a clean windows install to fix the problem; everything else is backed up online but the videos were too large.

Normally I would start by going into safe mode but I have a large Dell monitor that doesn't show anything until the welcome screen appears. I think that I have gotten into the setup screen once or twice by mashing keys before I can see anything, but this monitor doesn't support that so I can't see what I'm doing to get it to boot from CD or anything else.

I'm at my wits end. Any advice?

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Slightly off topic perhaps as I wouldn't be able to suggest anything other than the options that other folks have already put forward, but for what it's worth... I've recently had a backup failure and now have a further redundant backup of my photos and videos using Google's Picasa service. I think that the free service gives you 1GB of storage and the yearly prices for more storage space aren't prohibitive. Another option would be the excellent DropBox which includes 2GB of backup for free. – Richard Jan 27 '10 at 10:52
+1 for the opening sentence "Someone whom I love..." :) – Shaihi Jan 27 '10 at 13:48

Just use Pendrive Linux to boot up your PC (You will need to create a bootable USB on a third PC), copy the data to an external drive (Since the Booting OS is linux, no issues of Virus infecting it). Then do a clean XP install on that PC.


Just download or order the Free Ubuntu Live CD, boot from it, copy your data & clean install XP.

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Just did this a couple of weeks ago for a friend. Let me just add that since things aren't backed up, I'll assume you may not have an external drive. My solution was, they bought a drive, I backed up everything from an Ubuntu Live CD, fresh install of XP, Install AV as first thing after XP, plug in the external and make sure it's clean. If the monitor is a problem borrow one from a friend. – Dennis Jan 27 '10 at 14:10
Note that the OP appears to be unable to change his BIOS settings so he's able to boot from CD. This is addressed in @fluxtendu's answer, which is why I think his is better. – foraidt Jan 27 '10 at 15:14

You could set up your hard drive as an external drive, and use another computer to browse & copy the files. Be very sure you know what you're doing, and at minimum the other computer should be running current anti-virus software. The safer route would be to take your hard drive to a data recovery specialist. Good luck!

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Get a live/boot cd (those mentioned by Ganesh.R or any other else or better ubcd4win) and push repeatedly one of these keys (at the early startup of the computer)

  • F2
  • Ctrl+Alt+Enter
  • Delete
  • Fn+F1 (laptop computers only)
  • Fn+Esc (laptop computers only)

Or look in the manual of your computer to find the key(s) to use to enter in bios/setup mode.

There's no way that your monitor doesn't support the bios mode (It's certainly just the time it take to warm up that fools you...) So, once you're in the bios, change your boot order to CD first, save/reboot and insert your livecd.

Another solution is to use "Safe Mode Command Prompt Only" to copy files to a usb drive (with command lines)

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Does warm-up time still apply for LCDs? Even if it's a warm boot? If it's not the monitor taking so long to switch resolutions it may also be the graphics card. I've seen dramatic differences in this aspect, after switching from one graphics card to another. – foraidt Jan 27 '10 at 11:30
If the PC is, like the monitor, a Dell, tapping F12 should get you into the boot-device selection screen without having to change the BIOS defaults. – Bonus Jan 27 '10 at 15:02

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