Here’s a tip that can give you access to webmail and the internet even if your computer will not boot. Some technical knowledge is nessisary, but even novices can usually make this work.
So you may or may not of heard of Linux, but what you probably don’t know is that you can download a version of it and boot right into it from a CD (to a working desktop where you can access files, internet, music etc) without installing it! This means you can load to a fully working computer, without touching your exsisting computers files. Assuming your computer was working just fine, you could load a Linux CD into your computer, reboot and select to boot from CD (some computer do this automatically) and you would be using linux! To get back to your normal computer operations, just shutdown, remove the CD when it asks, and start the computer again, your now back to your computer like normal!
This has some very real benifits for a computer that has crashed. For one, chances are, when your computer crashes, its due to a software problem or a dieing or dead hard drive. By booting from a linux CD, you can still use your computer for basic operations and even advanced ones for those willing to learn. Besides being able to access the web, you can also access your computers files! Imagine you need to send a file you were working on to a co-worker, but your computer just wont boot because you got a nasty virus. Pop in the linux CD, boot from it and simply double click the HDD icon right on the desktop to get access to all your computer files! You can then login to your email like gmail or hotmail and send the file off or even tweak it first, then send it (Ubuntu comes with a full office suit)! Awesome eh?
Think of another situation. Your computer wont load but its old, so you just purchased a new one. However there are a few files you want to retrieve, but they are not worth $100+ for data recovery. Put in the CD and boot, access the hard drive and copy the files you want to a USB stick.
Linux is a very powerful Operating System and over the years has become very easy to use. That being said it can do a lot more then just this, and if your interested, I would recommend you play around with it and google search anything you would like to know or issues you run into. There is a HUGE community out there helping each other out with all things Linux. If you find you really enjoy Linux, you can also just install it! Be warned though, if you install it and you want to keep the data on your computer (including your files) then choose the “install side by side with windows”. This is also refered to as “dual booting” as you can choose to load into windows (or Mac, depending on your computer) or Linux.
There are many different variants or “Distros” of linux to pick from, but one has stood out more then the rest called Ubuntu, and its what I recommend.
In order to get your own CD of Ubuntu, you need to download and burn it on to a cd. There is a download link and instructions on the page bellow (please read the instructions!). I recommend you download the 32 bit versions to insure compatibility.
If you have a old computer (pre-2005), you can also try Xubuntu, which is Ubuntu but uses a different desktop interface that requires less resources (aka runs nicer on older computers).
Here is a link to help you boot from CD.