You can boot from any bootable media that your laptop supports. That may range from floppy, usb, cd, pxe, gPXE (to iscsi and others), pcmcia, or addon card ide to whatever.
Great choice is Knoppix 5.x cd/dvd. Many many other live cd's are quite usable.
"Best Practices", Event viewer, host file, perfmon, antivirus, anti-spyware, Live CD's, backups, are in my top 10