In the forums we often recommend the Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD) for testing Hard Drives and Memory. Today alone I’ve recommended it three times. People are usually unfamiliar with the UBCD, so I decided to give a little more in depth overview of what it can and cannot do. It contains a few hidden gems that that can be very beneficial. We will go over everything from downloading it to running the programs which we recommend on a daily basis. They regularly update the Ultimate Boot CD although the basics should still hold the same throughout.
Downloading the Ultimate Boot CD
Let us start at step one. A couple of posters had an issue with acquiring the Ultimate Boot CD from their main site. I will agree it isn’t laid out as I would and can be a bit cumbersome, but simply scrolling around and reading allow you to get a full grasp of how to go about downloading it. First, Google “Ultimate Boot CD” and it will take you to the main site, which on the left-hand side you can click on “Download UBCD.” After clicking that, scroll down to the “P2P” and “Mirror Sites” sections. If you have uTorrent, BitTorrent, or Opera you can use the “P2P” ISO link to download a torrent file of the newest Ultimate Boot CD. If not, go down and click on the small box with a red arrow above it right next to the words “ISO” under the “Mirror Sites” section. The download should be starting. After you get the ISO file, burn it to a CD or DVD using an ISO burning software such as Imgburn or Nero.
Using the Ultimate Boot CD
The majority of the time we recommend this CD is for testing the Hard Drive and RAM although this CD can do so much more. I will walk you through testing both with 2 separate programs step by step. There are other programs on this CD which can test RAM and HDD, but these would be arguably the most commonly used. Hitachi Drive Fitness for Hard Drives and Memtest for Memory is what we will showcase plus a mysterious program which can be very helpful in a pinch. One thing that has to be addressed is how you boot from a CD or DVD with your computer. You have to access the BIOS and change the Boot Order to allow a Boot CD to function sometimes. After accessing the BIOS, simply look around for the Boot Order and make sure that Optical drive or CD/DVD is first. Some BIOS allow you to hit “F12” or “F10” to bring up a boot menu after POST if you miss getting into the BIOS initially.
Memtest is the easiest of the programs listed on this CD to run. After booting from the Ultimate Boot CD, go down four categories to Memory and hit “Enter.” Scroll down to “Memtest86+” whatever version and hit “Enter.” This will cause Memtest to launch. This program is loaded into the RAM so if you wanted you could completely remove the Ultimate Boot CD from the tray and it would still function. As it is running you will see a small description of your system in the top left corner and the percentage of the current test and entire pass of the memory testing software in the top right corner. In the middle of the page you will see “Wall Time,” “Cached,” etc. Look to the right a little more and you will see “Pass.” General rule of thumb is to let this number get to 2-4 Passes. This means that Memtest has completed 2-4 complete scans of your memory.
If all is good with those passes, the screen should look almost identical to how it was when you started. If there are any issues, you will see red bars and white lettering describing the issues. If you see red, it is time to replace one or all of the sticks of RAM in your PC. Best thing to do if you see red when testing, remove all sticks if multiple and put back in just one. Then run the test again. If that stick passes then it is good and proceed to the next stick to find the bad one.
Hitachi Drive Fitness
Next we will overview Hitachi Drive Fitness test. From the main Ultimate Boot CD screen, click on the third section labeled “HDD” then “Diagnosis.” Once there, “Drive Fitness Test” should be the 4th from the top, click on it to launch it. Here you will be greeted with several DOS appearing windows, choose “1” and “1” for the default settings or if you wait a collective 40 seconds, it will pick those for you. Agree to the Licensing Agreement and wait for it to scan for any hard drives it can find. It will confirm all it has found and prompt you for a “Yes” to continue. Here we have the options of a “Quick Test” or an “Advanced Test.” I always recommend the Advanced Test unless you can hear the Hard Drive making a lot of noise already. It will take a little longer but I like knowing for certain whether my drive is dead or not.
Offline NT Password and Registry Editor
This is one of the nifty little tools I like to keep in my back pocket on a rainy day. I have had to use this on Windows 7, Vista, and XP machines alike for password resets and with success each time. It can seem overwhelming and its scripts are doing some very intense work behind the scenes. I will give a general walk-through on this, talk about some safety concerns, and how to prevent them because “knowledge is power.”
From the main of the Ultimate Boot CD screen, select “HDD” again but this time select “Data Recovery” and “Offline NT Password and Registry Editor.” Once it is loaded up, press “Enter” or wait 10 seconds and it will select it for you. Now it will show you what partitions it has found on the Hard Drive. This process becomes a bit trickier if you are running dual Operating Systems or have multiple Hard Drives installed and some having old Windows files. If you only have one partition found, it should be labeled “1” so hit the number “1” and then hit “Enter.” Now it is going to ask you where your Registry is located via its actual path name. Depending on what version of Windows you are using you may have to change this field. A simple Google search again should reveal what that path is if you don’t know it off the top of your head. The XP path should be what comes up initially so a simple “Enter” to accept it would be fine.
Then we get to decide what we want to do, either “Password reset,” play in the Recovery Console, or quit. The default again is set for “Password Reset” which is what we want so just hit “Enter.” Again, the default is what we want, hit “Enter” to accept going into “Edit user data and passwords.” Now we get to pick which user we want to change the password on. By default it is on Administrator but you can choose whichever you want based on the number in front of it. Next, hit the number “1” and “Enter” if you are wanting to simply blank out the password so it doesn’t ask for it on boot. Now that we have it blanked, we can back out by entering “!” followed by and “Enter” and a “q” followed by another “Enter.” It will ask you to Save the changes, hit “y” and “Enter” and it should take the changes. If it asks if you want to try again, just hit “n”.
I ran into an issue where in the last couple steps of Saving what we had did while doing this on a virtual machine, it said it errored because it couldn’t unmount the volume although it got rid of the password. SO even if it does error after saving, double check to make sure the password is gone or still there.
Now to the Security standpoint I mentioned earlier. The above information can be used by those who wish to use it for evil purposes I agree, but this is by far not the first place to post this information. In my practice it always helps to see possible security risks so you know how to combat them. This can simply be avoided by not allowing the optical drive or USB to boot after POST and locking the BIOS with a password, a feat that should be done anyway on a public computer or even ones in the office although PCs on a domain environment are not as subject to this type of behavior because AD can be set to not allow the passwords to be changed locally and not to have a blank password.
The Ultimate Boot CD is jam packed with a bunch of great software that can tackle a number of jobs. We have seen above the ability to test the RAM, Hard Drive, and change out a password so we can access our account. There is so much more to the CD as well, but only downloading it and playing around can you truly appreciate all it can accomplish. With Memtest and Hitachi Drive Fitness Test, you will have a good leg to stand on when computer problems come your way. Now you have a good one two punch to attempt a diagnosis. As I said above, the Ultimate Boot CD is updated somewhat frequently with newer versions of software but the general principals here should hold true with any version you are working with. This CD is 100% legal and deals with all free software to help tackle all your needs. You can also check out my tutorial in the Forums on how to step by step burn the ISO of the Ultimate Boot CD.