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ubuntu live cdThink Ubuntu is useless? Think again. Ubuntu can be an extremely effective tool for repairing and working on computers, even if you consider yourself a Windows purist. This is because Ubuntu is capable of loading completely from a Ubuntu Live CD, giving you access to your computer in ways Windows can’t – or when Windows is completely broken.

For this reason, I suggest every Windows user keeps a copy of Ubuntu on hand, even if they never intend to switch from Windows. Happily, Ubuntu is completely free to aquire. You can download Ubuntu and burn it yourself, but if that sounds like too much work you can request Ubuntu send you a Ubuntu Live CD for free.


That’s right: you’ll get a CD in the mail, completely free of charge. There’s seriously no reason to not look into this, so let’s see some of the uses Ubuntu has for those who never intend to install it.

Recover Data From Unbootable System

ubuntu live

When your Windows system won’t start – not even in safe mode – it’s easy to feel helpless. If you’ve got an Ubuntu CD handy you don’t need to feel that way. Just boot from your CD and you can access every file on your hard drive. This can give you a chance to get some work done, if you want, or just to back up all of your files before re-installing Windows or attempting to repair the Windows installation.

If you want more information on this particular use for an Ubuntu Live CD, including information on how to burn one, check out Varun’s excellent article How To Back Up Data On Your Computer That Won’t Boot How To Back Up Data From Computer That Won't Boot How To Back Up Data From Computer That Won't Boot Read More . There’s a lot of great information there!

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Run Memtest

If your computer crashes from time to time it’s easy to suspect your problem is software related. It might not be – frequently the cause of such bugginess is a problem with your RAM chip. If you suspect this might be the case with your system, and you’ve got an Ubuntu CD on hand, you’re in luck: the Ubuntu CD comes with a memtest!

Just start the CD, being sure to hit “Enter” when you see the keyboard icon on the screen. Then select “memtest” from the list of options to begin testing your RAM. If there’s something physically wrong with your RAM you’ll find out and know that it’s time to shop for a replacement!

ubuntu live cd

Find out more about Memtest courtesy of our good friend Varun, and his excellent article about Memtest, Test Your Computer's Memory For Errors with Memtest Test Your Computer's Memory For Errors with Memtest Read More

Find Out About Your Hard Drive

Another reason for an occasionally crashing or sometimes slow Windows computer is a failing hard drive, or one that is too slow. Ubuntu comes with a couple of really good tools for accessing the health of your hard drive.

The first is Disk Utility, which you’ll find under “System,” then “Administration.” This app will tell you if any disk connected to your system has physical damage, as well as giving you access to SMART DATA and a couple of other key statistics that can inform you about the life of your drive.

ubuntu live

Another nifty tool is Disk Usage Analyzer, which you’ll find under “Applications” followed by “Accessories.” This tool can scan any hard drive and graphically display what’s taking up space on your drive. You’d be amazed how many times I’ve discovered people have filled their drive by accidently copying and pasting their entire music folder. Use this tool to find where any such superfluous files may be and then use the File Manager to delete them!

Edit Partitions

ubuntu live cd

The Ubuntu CD comes with Gparted, which is a pretty amazing drive partitioning program. If you’re looking to re-size your Windows partition, or turn some empty space into a secondary partition, this is the tool you’re looking for. That Ubuntu runs as a Live CD is particularly useful here, because you cannot edit your primary partition from within Windows.

Find Gparted under “System” followed by “Administration.” If you’re familar with Partition Magic or similar software you should feel right at home; if not, I’ll be writing all about Gparted in the weeks to come!

Conclusion

Do you need the Ubuntu CD to do these things? No; I’m certain our commenters will point out a wide variety of alternatives. My only point is that if you have an Ubuntu Live CD on hand you can quickly do all these things. Seeing as Ubuntu is completely free I figure it’s good to have the option.

What do you think? Is it handy to have a Ubuntu CD around even if you never intend to install it? Do you have any stories of data saved or computer diagnosed because of the tools that come with Ubuntu? Have a seat, grab yourself a drink and let us know what you think in the comments below!

  1. bob
    March 19, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    4GB hard drive XD WOW

    • Justin Pot
      March 22, 2016 at 1:33 pm

      I did most everything on a netbook back in 2010, but I've corrected and have a nice big drive these days! :)

  2. Geekyard
    September 12, 2010 at 2:17 am

    Awesome Post... I am a Ubuntu Linux Lovers ;)

  3. robert3353
    August 20, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Ubuntu might be very useful for some however for me it is the most inconsistent distro out there and in my opinion gives Linux a bad name. Why do I say this, well it has been my experience that with every new release some part of my hardware that once worked with it no longer does. I gave up on Ubuntu a long time ago due to this and having to constantly have to fight with it to get my stuff up and running again. I have over the years gone back like a dog that loves to get beaten and given them another look just to see what all the hype is about so I recently downloaded their new LTR 10.04 release and guess what I wasn't even able to give it a try because they have done something that disables my Logitech MX 5500 blue tooth keyboard and mouse before the main screen even loads. Well I am not going to go out and buy an ancient wired keyboard and mouse just to give them another try. As far as I am concerned Ubuntu is the most worthless distro on the planet.

  4. Ryan Hoover
    July 29, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    You can also reset your Windows password with a LiveCD and installing chntpw. After any of these, you'll realize how great linux is and install it! :)

  5. Jason Saggers
    July 25, 2010 at 1:42 am

    You can use oem disks also, there are hundreds of command line tools to use to fix hundreds of computer problems.
    The Windows Vista DVD has a recovery center that provides you with the option of recovering your system via automated recovery, rolling-back to a system restore point, recovering a full PC backup, or accessing a command-line recovery console for advanced recovery purposes all without the need to install windows or even type in a cd key.
    For more advanced partition purposes a live CD is perfect or for removing a virus, recovering deleted files and the list goes on, I do PC repair and I use windows recovery disks (can be downloaded from Microsoft) and also a number of Linux options.
    A very good read like always.

  6. Edwin Midsummer
    July 24, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    You are perfectly correct. Ubuntu will raise to the occasion. Thank you.
    Midsummer

  7. Edwin Midsummer
    July 24, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    You are perfectly correct. Ubuntu will raise to the occasion. Thank you.
    Midsummer

  8. Dinesh
    July 24, 2010 at 2:25 am

    you can use it a partition image maker.

  9. Sucka99
    July 24, 2010 at 2:21 am

    Reason 5: To test drive a better OS

  10. Elderlybloke
    July 24, 2010 at 12:01 am

    I think Ubuntu is recommended because it is apparently the easiest of the Linux OSs to use, for new users.
    Don't get all hetup about this-there are more important things to worry about.

  11. Proud Ubuntu Fanboy
    July 23, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    Ubuntu rocks... I made the switch a couple of years ago. I can appreciate any article that spreads the name and helps Windows users who might know nothing of Linux - or not realize that "user-friendly" and "Linux" can be used in the same sentence now - that Ubuntu is a viable option.

  12. jhpot
    July 23, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    You know, I don't think it's possible to force Windows to boot to system
    restore, but if you have system restore enabled that will usually boot even
    if Windows doesn't. The problem is most people don't enable it.

  13. Anonymous
    July 23, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    Nice article, some of the use of ubuntu will be save files from the windows desktop to another hard drive, this is useful in case to reformat windows because refuses to boot again. Also better would have been how to restore registry to an earlier health state to be able to boot normaly windows. Also possible Ubuntu can trigger restore windows to a prevoius state??

    • jhpot
      July 23, 2010 at 5:27 pm

      You know, I don't think it's possible to force Windows to boot to system
      restore, but if you have system restore enabled that will usually boot even
      if Windows doesn't. The problem is most people don't enable it.

  14. Sonny Bass
    July 23, 2010 at 3:11 am

    I think it is a very good article. Over the past year I have been trying several Linux distributions to find a viable alternative to Windows. I have been impressed with the fact that almost all have played nice with Windows, and the amount of information they have given me about my computer and my Windows system (xp pro). My personal favorite and I believe to be my main operating system for quite a while is Mint 9 Isadora.Since its release and my installation as a dual boot 2 days later the only reason I have booted to Windows is to get my monthly updates.

  15. xfinger
    July 23, 2010 at 3:23 am

    This may be a good thing for a XP user. Ppl using Windows 7 should stick to its native tools as they're far more powerful.
    As for Ubuntu Live CD, the times I was sharing dozens of its Live CDs with everybody I knew are just gone.
    Now I boot any gnu/linux image from the network with bootp ...

  16. xfinger
    July 23, 2010 at 1:23 am

    This may be a good thing for a XP user. Ppl using Windows 7 should stick to its native tools as they're far more powerful.
    As for Ubuntu Live CD, the times I was sharing dozens of its Live CDs with everybody I knew are just gone.
    Now I boot any gnu/linux image from the network with bootp ...

  17. Mrbrentcc
    July 22, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    I have 5 computers 2 touch desktops and a gateway desktop and 2 laptops the desktops always have a choice booting up UBUNTU is number one WINDOWS 7
    ULTIMATE 64 BIT IS second choice using ubuntu now.

  18. Mrbrentcc
    July 22, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    I have 5 computers 2 touch desktops and a gateway desktop and 2 laptops the desktops always have a choice booting up UBUNTU is number one WINDOWS 7
    ULTIMATE 64 BIT IS second choice using ubuntu now.

  19. jhpot
    July 22, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    Mailed to you: https://shipit.ubuntu.com/

    Download: http://www.ubuntu.com/desktop/...

    There you go!

  20. jhpot
    July 22, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    First: Linux is not an OS. It's a kernel. If I write an article called "4 Reasons Every Windows Use Should Have a Linux Live CD" I'm going to get complaints from the GNU people, who will insist that my article should be called "4 Reasons Every Windows User Should Have a GNU/Linux Live CD."

    Second: I'm not a fanboy because I don't care. I'm writing this to give my readers useful, easy to understand advice. If something better comes along I'll write about that instead, but what I'll never do is unnecessarily add complexity to an article by supplying superfluous information that doesn't directly help my readers.

    I've managed to make a Linux distro sound easy to use and you're upset because I didn't make it more complicated. Fine. But I'm not convinced our Windows using readers, whom I'll remind you the article is targeted at, are interested in the intricacies of open source politics. They want to get stuff done; that's it.

    Think you can write a better, concise blog post that mentions every Linux Live CD? Go ahead and do so, but I'm moving on.

  21. LinuxLover
    July 22, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Or...here's a thought... How about an article titled, "4 Reasons Every Windows User Should Have a Linux LiveCD"... Wow... Really encompasses the whole idea, doesn't it. Such an nominal and noteworthy idea to cast the article over the broader spectrum that is the OS - Linux. Duh!

    What are you fanboys gonna do when either Ubuntu's popularity weens off or Shuttleworth pulls the plug? 2 other distros have laid claim to the "most popular distro" in the past. Ubuntu will fall off that bandwagon just as the others have.

  22. LinuxLover
    July 22, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Or...here's a thought... How about an article titled, "4 Reasons Every Windows User Should Have a Linux LiveCD"... Wow... Really encompasses the whole idea, doesn't it. Such an nominal and noteworthy idea to cast the article over the broader spectrum that is the OS - Linux. Duh!

    What are you fanboys gonna do when either Ubuntu's popularity weens off or Shuttleworth pulls the plug? 2 other distros have laid claim to the "most popular distro" in the past. Ubuntu will fall off that bandwagon just as the others have.

    • jhpot
      July 22, 2010 at 3:18 pm

      First: Linux is not an OS. It's a kernel. If I write an article called "4 Reasons Every Windows Use Should Have a Linux Live CD" I'm going to get complaints from the GNU people, who will insist that my article should be called "4 Reasons Every Windows User Should Have a GNU/Linux Live CD."

      Second: I'm not a fanboy because I don't care. I'm writing this to give my readers useful, easy to understand advice. If something better comes along I'll write about that instead, but what I'll never do is unnecessarily add complexity to an article by supplying superfluous information that doesn't directly help my readers.

      I've managed to make a Linux distro sound easy to use and you're upset because I didn't make it more complicated. Fine. But I'm not convinced our Windows using readers, whom I'll remind you the article is targeted at, are interested in the intricacies of open source politics. They want to get stuff done; that's it.

      Think you can write a better, concise blog post that mentions every Linux Live CD? Go ahead and do so, but I'm moving on.

      • Anonymous
        July 22, 2010 at 4:10 pm

        Ubuntu is the easiest for a Windows user to work with, jhpot is correct. LinuxLover, you need to stop Google-ing and shut up. The reason Ubuntu "Most Popular Distro" is because a novice user can use it. I am a advanced Unix user, and I use Ubuntu because you the best of both worlds. There is no Distro that equals Ubuntu when it comes to Ease of Use, none. Despite security venerabilities inherit in all Unix based Operating Systems, Ubuntu is the choice for novice an experts alike. By the way, not all Unix plays well with Windows, jhpot is correct. LinuxLover, get with the program or go home.

  23. Roundabout
    July 22, 2010 at 11:06 am

    This is very interesting!
    What's the link to where we can get a CD?

  24. Roundabout
    July 22, 2010 at 9:06 am

    This is very interesting!
    What's the link to where we can get a CD?

  25. LinuxLover
    July 21, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Couldn't this apply to almost, if not, ALL Linux LiveCD's? Why make this Ubuntu only? This is what disgusts me about Ubuntu fanboys. They pretend Ubuntu is the only one that does/has such stuff - as if it's unique. Pretty much any Linux LiveCD can do the very same things you have outlined, and there are even distros specifically geared toward saving a Windows machine.

    • Axel482
      July 21, 2010 at 6:43 pm

      True, but Ubuntu's popular and more user-friendly than some others.

    • jhpot
      July 21, 2010 at 6:59 pm

      Call me a fanboy if you will, but the decision is completely editorial. "4 Reasons Every Windows User Should Have At Least One of the Thousands Of Linux Live CDs or Possibly FreeBSD or Something" just isn't a catchy headline, and spending half the article talking about how there are tons of different Linux CDs but you should try them all first wouldn't exactly generate interest.

    • Anonymous
      July 22, 2010 at 4:12 pm

      Not all Unix plays nice with Windows, NTFS compatibility is still new in the Unix world, not that you would know that, LinuxLover.

    • Elderlybloke
      July 23, 2010 at 10:01 pm

      I think Ubuntu is recommended because it is apparently the easiest of the Linux OSs to use, for new users.
      Don't get all hetup about this-there are more important things to worry about.

  26. PhilC
    July 21, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    This recommendation is RIGHT ON! Wish I would have had it six months ago. I was studying to take the bar and my computer crashed 5 days before the exam. I was out of town (studying with a friend near the exam site) and didn't have any of my usual computer tools with me. I tried what I could and even found what seemed like a decent PC technician (I refused to go to BestBuy or Geek Squad) and they couldn't help either. Anyway, did a work around for the bar exam. When I got home I was going to install Ubuntu on the box and just buy a new Windows notebook. As I was starting the Ubuntu install I decided to first test the notebook. Guess what? One bank of my memory had failed. No other test I ran (from bios, etc.) told me this. I removed the reported bank of memory and the notebook booted up like a champ!

  27. PhilC
    July 21, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    This recommendation is RIGHT ON! Wish I would have had it six months ago. I was studying to take the bar and my computer crashed 5 days before the exam. I was out of town (studying with a friend near the exam site) and didn't have any of my usual computer tools with me. I tried what I could and even found what seemed like a decent PC technician (I refused to go to BestBuy or Geek Squad) and they couldn't help either. Anyway, did a work around for the bar exam. When I got home I was going to install Ubuntu on the box and just buy a new Windows notebook. As I was starting the Ubuntu install I decided to first test the notebook. Guess what? One bank of my memory had failed. No other test I ran (from bios, etc.) told me this. I removed the reported bank of memory and the notebook booted up like a champ!

  28. NessTheHero
    July 21, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    Can GParted split an existing partition on a hard drive without ruining the data on that drive? This is, of course, assuming the data isn't filling that entire partition.

    • Axel482
      July 21, 2010 at 6:42 pm

      Yes, it shouldn't hurt the data as long as you're not making the partition smaller than the size of the data. Always back it up first though.

  29. jhpot
    July 21, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    I never intended to say such Windows Live CD's don't exist; we've written about them before and I use a couple of them regularly. But in order to use such Windows live CDs legally you need a retail license of Windows that you're not using on any computer, as well as the time to build such a CD yourself. Ubuntu, on the other hand, is so free they'll mail it to your house.

    However, the choice is obviously up to you. That's what makes computers so much fun!

  30. Ray
    July 21, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    I work with Linux at work and at home. But, you are wrong, there are also Live CD distributives with Windows onboard and, of course, you can repair your system from it.

    • jhpot
      July 21, 2010 at 6:02 pm

      I never intended to say such Windows Live CD's don't exist; we've written about them before and I use a couple of them regularly. But in order to use such Windows live CDs legally you need a retail license of Windows that you're not using on any computer, as well as the time to build such a CD yourself. Ubuntu, on the other hand, is so free they'll mail it to your house. However, the choice is obviously up to you. That's what makes computers so much fun!

      • Ray
        July 21, 2010 at 6:13 pm

        Hm.. that's true. You need to have a retail license for Windows. And that's moment does Linux more lovely for users ))

      • Jason Saggers
        July 24, 2010 at 11:42 pm

        You can use oem disks also, there are hundreds of command line tools to use to fix hundreds of computer problems.
        The Windows Vista DVD has a recovery center that provides you with the option of recovering your system via automated recovery, rolling-back to a system restore point, recovering a full PC backup, or accessing a command-line recovery console for advanced recovery purposes all without the need to install windows or even type in a cd key.
        For more advanced partition purposes a live CD is perfect or for removing a virus, recovering deleted files and the list goes on, I do PC repair and I use windows recovery disks (can be downloaded from Microsoft) and also a number of Linux options.
        A very good read like always.

  31. Prateek Jain
    July 21, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    thanx for the article. without doubt ubuntu is as gud as windows if not better and i have already made the switch and i am more than happy.

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