Explain how to get to the DOS layer when Windows is corrupt

I once had a computer, a Dell with Win xp. Windows failed, giving me the BSOD. I was thankfully able to copy all my data files after the fact by accessing the DOS layer.  Tedious, but it worked.

That was a LONG time ago. I;ve since forgotten how to do it. Can anyone tell me if and how I can do this with a newer computer that has Win 7?

Thanks in advance.
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When booting up press f8 and you'll get a boot menu with an option like safe mode command prompt.

Or you can boot from the installation DVD, which gives you several repair options.

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you can boot with an alternative OS on a USB key (ex. Windows Pe)
sheana11Author Commented:
What is WIndows Pe, asterisque?
I thought BartPE, search it on google
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Microsoft DOS

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