Tag Archives: datarecovery

My Favorite 5 LiveCD’s for System Rescue & Maintenance

LiveCD RescueRecovering a system which has crashed or otherwise fails to boot is a task which every technician will be very familiar with and it’s never a fun time for the owner of the uncooperative machine or the tech tasked with attempting to revive it. Fortunately there are a number of so called “Live CD’s” around which make recovery and other maintenance tasks relatively easy and needless to say, no IT technician should ever leave home without one (or several) along with something to actually run it on!

Commonly, LiveCD distros come with a range of useful technician tools such as diagnostics, forensics, benchmarking, antivirus, disk recovery, security tools and more to help the admin successfully complete whatever critical tasks need to be done to get the system running again or at least to safely recover the data stored there.

Linux is one of the more popular choices for LiveCD’s but there are others including for Mac, Windows, BSD and other Unix systems and even one for Amiga if you happen to have an old Amiga machine that needs some attention. These days, despite the legacy name “Live CD”, most such distros also work just as well on flash drives, dvd’s or hard disks and being able to install a fully bootable OS on a tiny USB stick is always useful!


One of the more popular LiveCD’s around is Knoppix and in fact there are many others around which are based on it, such as Hiren’s which is mentioned below. Knoppix is based on Debian and was first released way back in the year 2000 and has had frequent releases since then. It works well with a very wide array of hardware. It also has over 1000 tools included which should be enough to keep anyone busy and hopefully you will always be able to find the tool you need for the job at hand.

Hiren’s BootCD

Hiren’s is an extremely popular one and, as previously mentioned, it is based on Knoppix which in turn is based on Debian. It includes Mini Windows XP amongst countless other Windows & DOS utilities making it great for accessing and fixing troublesome systems running Windows.

Ultimate Boot CD

The Ultimate Boot CD is another popular choice and it works great for repairing Windows and Linux systems and is in fact based on Linux like so many others. It features a good selection of tools to cater to most technician tasks for system recovery.


Ubuntu has been a popular choice as a desktop Linux OS for a good few years now and one of the reasons for that was their creation (and even shipping to your house) of a CD with which you can install the OS or even just run it directly from the CD itself. This LiveCD mode is actually the default and certainly helped encourage people to give it a try since they wouldn’t have to risk actually installing or ruining their existing system to do so. The Ubuntu LiveCD is still popular today and they also provide a helpful page explaining how to use it for various recovery tasks.


For a purely Windows solution there is WinPE which stands for Windows Preinstallation Environment and is actually a slimmed down version of Windows itself which can be used for system recovery and deployment.

If the above list of Live CD’s does not satisfy you, there is a nice long list of alternatives here which covers just about all the important ones – of course there are probably countless others made by those who fancied having their own custom LiveCD and you could also roll your own as well, using tools like Live Linux or YUMI if you really feel the need.

Data Recovery Tools

Data Recovery ToolsSometimes critical data gets lost and no matter how much you wish, you wont find it behind the fridge, so what does the over-stressed IT technician do to recover his data and/or sanity? What data recovery tools are available to help resurrect that important missing data? Read on for the answers..

When you need to recover data it certainly helps if the computer it is on will actually boot up! If you’re stuck with a system that refuses to cooperate in this manner then what you need is a LiveCD (which could actually be on a usb stick) with which you can boot the recalcitrant machine and then (hopefully) mount the disks with your data. Popular Live CD distros include Knoppix (Linux based), WinPE (from MSFT and based on Win7) and Spinrite.

Many of these LiveCD distros of course also include various utils which you can use to diagnose problems and help recover your data, for example disk and filesystem checkers such as chkdsk for DOS/Windows, fsck and gparted for Linux/Unix systems and Disk Utility on OSX.

When it comes to actually finding and recovering the wayward files there are many options these days from free (but still good) to not so free (and sometimes still good) and some products which come with both options so you can try before you buy – assuming the free version doesn’t trash your data you might be tempted to pay for the premium version!

Among the options available for data recovery on Windows systems you can try the likes of Recuva, OnTrack Easy Recover, Total Recovery, Undelete 360, MiniTool Partition Recovery, Wise Data Recovery and even Norton Utilities.

On the Mac platform you can find such things as FileSalvage, Disk Drill Basic and Data Rescue 3, amongst others.

If your data is on a Linux system then you will find the imaginatively titled Recover Data for Linux and Linux Data Recovery to be right up your street.

If you’re still in need of more options then this page should provide enough to keep you busy for a long time. Feel free to let us know which data recovery tools you rely on.

When all else fails, it is time to reach for that ever reliable backup you made. You did make one right? You did also make sure to keep it up to date AND check that you could actually restore from it, just in case, right??

Backup Tools

Backup ToolsIf there’s one thing that keeps IT Managers and business owners awake at night it is the thought of catastrophic data loss, typically due to hardware failure but it could also be due to failed software upgrades , database updates, human error or even malicious hackers. So in order to sleep better it is of course essential to have good backup tools.

Backups can be done in many ways, even manually with a simple copy command, however manually created backups are not something to be relied on because it is only a matter of time before a backup is forgotten or it fails to include some essential data and you may never know about it until you need it and find your critical data is not there. You do not want that to happen! Proper backup tools which are automatically run on schedule and which make incremental backups containing data updates and additions along with periodical full backups with all your data are the order of the day. There are quite a few solutions which provide just this, as you would expect as backups are not a new thing, some of which are software you must install and manage, some are complex backup server systems and some are remotely managed services so you only have to deal with defining what and when to backup and the rest is done for you.

For Linux based systems a popular backup utility is rsnapshot which is basically just a Perl script that wraps around rsync and is run by cron every hour or at intervals you define. It creates the incremental backups as you would expect and rotates them all for you. Once configured it works well. It does of course depend on your own backup hardware and you need to make sure it is configured correctly and actually runs as and when required.

For a more ‘enterprise’ level backup system you could use something like Bacula which is an open source system featuring a linux/unix based server along with client daemons which run on multiple OS’s including Windows.

Once you have a backup system in place you need to know it is actually running and doing its job so you could use your monitoring tools to keep an eye on it and alert you if things go wrong so you can hopefully fix it long before you ever need to access your backed up data.

So called ‘Cloud’ backup tools are another option and there are many to choose from, quite a few of which depend on Cloud storage systems such as AWS (Amazon). Having your data managed and hosted by another company may be something you would need to consider carefully for various reasons from legal to security. Is your data secure there and do your terms of service or client contracts allow you to store data in such a way? There are undoubtedly benefits to using a managed backup service but make sure to do your due diligence before trusting your precious data to a 3rd party. Services for MSP’s to consider include Kaseya, Datto and GFI, amongst others.

Either way it is certainly wise to have more than one backup location anyway so your backups do not go up in smoke along with your primary systems!

Whichever backup tools you choose to use you also need to make sure that you can get your data back from your backups should you ever need to. It is essential to test that your backups are working and the right data from the appropriate snapshots is easily and quickly available – data recovery is just as important as data backup!

Which are your favorite backup tools? Let us know in the comments..