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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.
3 Solutions
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.
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
I've requested that this question be closed as follows:

Accepted answer: 168 points for rindi's comment #a39558554
Assisted answer: 166 points for asterisque's comment #a39559262
Assisted answer: 166 points for asterisque's comment #a39558653

for the following reason:

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