One of our "gotta get around to it" tasks right now is to salvage the data off of our old WinXP laptop (a Dell Inspiron 4100, if it helps). The HDD is slowly dying ... to the point that it takes about an hour to boot up because of numerous disk errors. Data can be copied off of it reasonably easily, though it takes absolutely forever, because every attempt to change a directory takes about 5 minutes in order to read the FAT.
We discovered the last time we were working on this that if we knew the directory we wanted to salvage, though, it worked pretty easily ... just drop into a DOS shell, type the incredibly long copy command, and boom. (Well, not quite "boom", but at least it was just the copy being done, and not a thousand directory accesses.)
I've heard (but of course have long since forgotten) of people who have bootable flash drives for such a purpose ... if I could let the system load the OS from the external drive, it would allow the system to run much more quickly, and I'd only have to worry about using the dying drive for copy purposes.
So ... would this work? How would I find out how to set up a bootable flash drive for something of this vintage? (By the way, it only has one USB port, and I'm guessing it ain't 2.0, either. I might be able to find that old USB mini-hub around here if I had to ...)