Tag Archives: recovery

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.

Antivirus Tools for Technicians

Antivirus ToolsThe curse of computers everywhere, even those not connected to any network, is the dreaded computer virus along with trojans, adware, spyware, keyloggers and all sorts of other types of nasty malware.. and some of them are very nasty indeed. For example the cryptolocker trojan which encrypts data on an infected system and demands payment of a ransom to decrypt that data, which many victims end up doing out of desperation and because the loss of income to a business due to not being able to access the data outweighs the cost of the ransom.

Malware most commonly affects Windows based systems but of course not only for technical reasons but also due to the fact that it is a more popular platform with users and so a bigger target for virus developers who don’t want to waste time developing for a platform with so much less potential for destruction and mayhem.

Linux on the other hand has relatively few issues with malware infections and in fact Linux antivirus software is not anywhere near as commonplace or in demand because it is much less often required. Which is not to say a Linux system is never infected with anything nasty – rootkits for Linux servers are also quite common and many a well known web based PHP app has provided a convenient gateway to a Linux server for a nasty rookit which then allows hackers in to the system to wreak havoc.

Somewhat related to Linux is Android and being extremely popular now makes it potentially a target for virus developers so of course antivirus developers are busy adding android antivirus to their tools to jump on that bandwagon early.

There are many antivirus tools to choose from these days, some that will try to prevent infection, others which will try to clean up an already infected system and some which do both. It is quite common practice to use more than one virus scanner as no AV tool is 100% effective at finding and cleaning infections.

Popular AV tools include AVG and Avast which are free (with a premium upgrade option of course) and the big names such as Mcafee,  Symantec and even Microsoft Security Essentials.

Other tools which are quite widely used include Malwarebytes, Combofix and Spybot.

A popular service used by many IT service providers is GFIMAX and not only does GFI provide an RMM service but they also have a managed anti-virus service which is based on Vipre and supports Windows and Android.

While most AV tools are software which must be installed on the PC, there are in fact some which are web based services so nothing needs to be installed at all. One such tool is  VirusTotal which will scan any file uploaded to their system and report back the ‘totals’. This provides a nice quick way to scan a file, for example a zip file or exe which you may have received or also to provide proof of virus free status (by including a link to the latest scan using a hash) for a file you may be sending to someone else. VirusTotal also includes an API so developers can easily embed virus scanning into their own apps or services.

Of course the last chance saloon when it comes to computer virus infections is the backup – hopefully you or you clients have working and recoverable backups!

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??