It's the same thing, every day: you turn your PC on, watch a status message or two pop up, then the desktop appears. But what if the boot process failed? A virus, a buggy driver, maybe a single corrupted file could be enough to stop Windows from loading. If Windows Startup Repair can't fix the problem, then you're locked out of your PC, and that could be a real disaster.

There's a simple way to prepare, though: just install and run a copy of PE Builder. Point the program at the files on your Windows Installation disc, and it'll use them to create an image of a bootable rescue CD. Burn this to disc, and if the worst happens and your PC won't start, then you can always boot from your PE Builder (also known as BartPE) disc instead.

The standard BartPE disc won't let you do a great deal. You'll be able to browse the files on your hard drive, copy them to external or network drives, and run a few small utilities, but that's about it. Of course that's far better than losing documents forever, and the disc can be customised further, with hard drive troubleshooting tools, file recovery programs, antivirus utilities and more. Over time this can become an invaluable troubleshooting toolkit: be sure to browse both the PE Builder website ( and forum ( for the information you need.

Verdict ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings

A must-have for everyone running Windows XP, but unfortunately it doesn't work reliably with Vista or Windows 7