A system failure can be an aggravating experience. Any number of problems can cause erratic system behavior, including viruses, worms, Trojan horses, corrupt or missing files, or a failed software update. Recovering from such instances sometimes requires that we gain access to a disk subsystem without using the installed OS.

Booting to the Windows recovery console can typically be a great help, but in some cases, that method doesn't provide enough utility to get the job done. Sometimes, you must remove a drive and install it in a working system so that you can boot an OS to gain access to the drive or files that need repair or inspection.

You might be aware that numerous versions of bootable Linux CD-ROMs are available--many of which can support NTFS. These CD-ROMs are handy for tasks such as fixing corrupted files or recovering and resetting lost passwords. Did you know that you can create a customized bootable Windows CD-ROM complete with the tools you might need for security analysis and system recovery?

Bart Lagerweij has created BartPE, a tool that you might consider adding to your security toolkit. BartPE uses a licensed copy of Windows Server 2003 or Windows XP to create a bootable CD-ROM in the form of a preinstalled environment (PE). You can boot a system from that CD-ROM and have access to network resources as well as various tools, depending on what you've included on the CD-ROM during the build process.

In its default configuration, BartPE builds a bootable Windows CD-ROM that contains Chkdsk, a RAM disk, a remote desktop client, mouse support, and more. BartPE also has a framework into which you can plug other tools, such as various network drivers, spyware-removing tools, virus-scanning tools, the PuTTY SSH client, Advanced SCSI Programming Interface (ASPI) support, Mozilla, Winternals Software's Disk Commander and ERD Commander, Symantec Ghost, and Ahead Software's Nero for creating CD-ROM and DVD images. You can also add a Citrix client, Novell NetWare client, hexadecimal editor, data-recovery tools, and numerous other tools. Keep in mind that if you want to plug a tool that's not freeware or shareware into your bootable CD-ROM, you'll need a licensed copy of the tool. You can learn more about BartPE and download the related building tools at the Nu2 Productions Web site. http://www.nu2.nu/pebuilder