[SATLUG] Boot from CD-ROM or DVD

Don Wright satlug at sbcglobal.net
Sat Nov 13 12:30:55 CST 2010

Doug wrote:

>Does anyone know where I can download or obtain a bootable CD-ROM or DVD
>disk image with the capability of booting and running no more than the hard
>drive utilities such as CHKDISK or equivalent? I have a couple of computers
>that need to have this utility run to recover/repair bad sectors, then
>reformat so as to reinstall the operating system from the original recovery

There's really two parts to your question: where to get a rescue
distribution that runs directly from CD or USB stick, and what tools to

A key resource for finding special-purpose Linux projects like that is
DistroWatch (www.distrowatch.com). Use the Search function for
Distribution Category "Rescue". Most of these can be installed on USB
stick as well as CD, to suit your needs. Look over the project website
for hints from the developers on the best use of their collected tools.

My favorite is the System Rescue CD {www.SysRescCD.org), a project with
a long history and frequent updates. 

Another longer-term project is Recovery Is Possible - RIPLinuX.

Ubuntu Rescue Remix is a more recent project that benefits from the
massive installed base of the Ubuntu family.

I also frequently use the previous version 3.3 of the Trinity Rescue
Kit. The new 3.4 release has some difficulties booting on the machines
I've tried it with, so I don't recommend it right now.

For changing the partition layout or moving partitions between drives
I'll use either GParted Live or Parted Magic. Both are a graphic front
end to libparted, a set of partition utilities used by almost every
distribution. Differences in kernel options may let one or the other
work better on specific hardware. I may also use Clonezilla to copy
partitions, such as when upgrading or making an archive copy of a
working system. Select these by name from the Select Distribution box at
the top on Distrowatch.

Now for the tools themselves, it depends on the specific situation. I'll
generally start with smartctl (see --help or man page) to interrogate
the S.M.A.R.T. facility on the drive itself. First I use the -H switch
to check the general health status, because there's no sense beating a
dead horse. Then if it's not too sick I'll try the short selftest (-t
short) and wait the time shown (a minute or two), then display the log
(-l selftest). If that passes I might try the long selftest, which scans
the disk surface for defects and thus takes much longer.

If there is data you wish to recover from the drive, I'll begin by using
ddrescue to copy as much as possible from one drive to another, then
work on the copy with fsck or specific filesystem tools to repair the
directory structure and recover as many files as possible. This avoids
further damage to the original filesystem so you can have a fallback

If the data is valuable and smartctl selftest shows a lot of errors, I'd
try Spinrite from GRC.com. See the website for what it does and doesn't
do - it's a drive-level recovery tool and doesn't fix filesystems, but
having a usable drive is a prerequisite to getting at any files on it.

Happy hunting!  --Don

Be well - or at least have interesting symptoms!

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