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I'm on Windows Vista Home 32bit.

Is there a way to edit the disk the system is on? Hex editors will not edit the hard drive directly. Is there a work around besides BartPE?

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The dd utility found on every Linux live CD allows direct access to the data. You could use dd to dump a region of the disk to a file, edit the file in a hex editor, and the use dd again to copy the data back to the original location. –  Andrew Lambert Feb 24 '12 at 18:23
    
possible duplicate of Windows FAT/NTFS Low-Level Disk Viewer (Norton DiskEdit alternative) –  Synetech Feb 24 '12 at 21:11
    
Note that all raw disk edits will require the relevant file system to be dismounted/locked, so there will be no editing the "system" partition from an application running "inside" it. See msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/hardware/… –  kreemoweet Feb 24 '12 at 22:31

2 Answers 2

  • HxD is freeware and lets you (hex-)edit a file or disk at a low level.

  • Disk Explorer (and its NTFS and Linux counterpart) are commercial but not only let you edit a disk at a low level, but it also understands disk structures, so you can view and follow things like directory entries, boot sectors, FAT, $Mft, etc.

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+1 for mentioning HxD. –  Andrew Lambert Feb 24 '12 at 18:24

On the Windows XP install CD there is a tool called Dskprobe. I'm not near a computer with Vista or Win7 at the moment, but this tool may work under Vista 32 bit as well as XP (edit to add: tested and found to work under Win7 x64 so it'll probably work under Vista x86.).

This GUI tool is a sector editor for drives on computers running Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. A user with local Administrator rights can use DiskProbe to directly edit, save, and copy data on a physical hard drive that is not accessible in any other way.

Dskprobe is also available for download as part of the Windows XP SP2 Support Tools package. enter image description here

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