Despite all of your preventive measures and the best-laid plans, sometimes the worst-case scenario happens: Your primary file server crashes right before your regularly scheduled backup window, and then the president of the company calls to let you know that he needs the presentation he's been working on all day--and he needs it now. Where do you go from here?
Here's one option that could be a real job-saver: Bart's Preinstalled Environment (BartPE) bootable live Windows CD/DVD. Available for free download, BartPE helps you create a bootable Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 CD or DVD from the original installation/setup CD. You can then use the BartPE-created CD to potentially boot a failed server and possibly recover important files to a network share or some other medium, in addition to other PC maintenance tasks.
BartPE provides a simple Windows desktop, complete with an 800 x 600 VGA display as well as FAT and NTFS disk support so you can read any disk in the server--unless you've encrypted it using Windows Encrypting File System (EFS), of course. Furthermore, it also provides network support, so you can recover any files that are still readable from the failed server.
Best of all, BartPE is free. However, it does require a valid Windows license. In addition, you must have a CD burner in order to create the bootable CD.
Scott Lowe has been involved primarily in the networking and systems engineering areas, and he has also served as a DBA and helpdesk technician. He is currently the IT director for a national legal association.