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linux live cdIn my experience Windows tends to have a habit of going wrong when you least expect, and at crucial moments. If you dread that sinking feeling as your system screws the pooch on startup, maybe it’s time to make a Linux live CD.

There are plenty of reasons the average Windows user may want to create a Linux live CD or USB stick before it’s too late. A USB-based distribution will be speedier (you’ll need Unetbootin How To Install Linux With Ease Using UNetbootin How To Install Linux With Ease Using UNetbootin We've already talked about Linux and why you should try it, but probably the hardest part of getting used to Linux is getting it in the first place. For Windows users, the simplest way is... Read More ) or you can simply burn a CD/DVD with something like ImgBurn ImgBurn - Easy & Free CD and DVD Burner App ImgBurn - Easy & Free CD and DVD Burner App Read More .

If you’ve not got one yet and are interested in the potential benefits then read on.

Which One?

For the purpose of this article I’m going to keep it simple and stick to the most widely used Linux home desktop distribution – Ubuntu. This version of Linux includes a live CD from which you can use or install the operating system, as well as plenty of software to start you off. If your interested, you can learn a bit more about Linux from the MUO ultimate guide to Linux.

linux live cd

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There are hundreds of free Linux distributions available, so it can be quite tricky choosing the right one. Ubuntu is a simple, easy to use distribution with a straight-forward interface making it perfect for newcomers. Driver support is also excellent, and driver issues are the last thing you need when you’re trying to fix existing problems.

Scenario 1 – Windows Won’t Boot

Whilst you can often resolve issues with Windows via a Windows CD/DVD, not everyone has one. Luckily enough, you can also have a go at fixing your Windows partition with Linux. You’ll need a few tools, notably lilo and ntfs-3g which are readily available in the repositories if you’re using Ubuntu.

linux live

You can then have a crack at repairing a corrupted NTFS file system and fixing the Windows master boot record. You can find full instructions on how to do this here How to Fix a Corrupted Windows NTFS Filesystem With Ubuntu How to Fix a Corrupted Windows NTFS Filesystem With Ubuntu Read More .

Scenario 2 – Windows Is Dead

So you’ve tried fixing what you can and nothing seems to have helped – looks like you need to re-install Windows. But oh no! You’ve (foolishly) left some vital documents on your Windows partition and you’re not formatting till you’ve got them back. Step in Linux!

linux live

Even if your Windows installation is butchered beyond repair, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to both access and backup any data you had on that partition with a live CD. Many distributions will detect your Windows filesystem, allowing you to mount the drive and recover your data via a nice friendly GUI.

We’ve covered mounting and accessing a Windows partition through Linux here How to Fix a Corrupted Windows NTFS Filesystem With Ubuntu How to Fix a Corrupted Windows NTFS Filesystem With Ubuntu Read More .

Scenario 3 – Isolating Hardware Issues

Another handy use for a live CD is the ability to check whether or not your PC is suffering from a hardware or software fault. If Windows won’t play ball, and Linux loads fine then chances are you’re looking at a software fault (at which point you could try and fix and recover).

linux live

Of course if Linux doesn’t work either then you may have identified a hardware issue Top 10 Sites For Computer Troubleshooting & Tech Support Top 10 Sites For Computer Troubleshooting & Tech Support Read More . Some live distributions come with diagnostics tools on the disc, such as Ubuntu What's New In Ubuntu 10.10, "Maverick Meerkat"? [Linux] What's New In Ubuntu 10.10, "Maverick Meerkat"? [Linux] Read More ‘s inclusion of Memtest86+. Even if you can’t isolate the exact piece of hardware giving you grief, your live CD has saved you some time so you can take the next necessary steps.

Scenario 4 – I Badly Need The Web!

So you’ve accepted that Windows is dead and gone, got your data back but now you’ve realised your boss has been waiting for an email for 2 hours, and you’ve got no functioning OS on your PC. Insert your live CD, connect to a network and use your live CD’s built-in web browser to send that email – tragedy averted.

linux live cd

Wireless internet might be an issue for some users as additional drivers are often required. If you find yourself in this boat then a direct connection via Ethernet should provide network and internet access.

Scenario 5 – My C:\ Drive is Full of Fail

If you’ve got a nasty case of malware poisoning and the idea of booting Windows only to watch it eat all your data doesn’t appeal, Linux might help you out.

Linux is a very secure operating system, with some distributions being more secure than others. Generally speaking viruses do not affect Linux, so most Linux antivirus applications are designed to stop the spread of malware between Windows machines.

It’s no lie that most malware and viruses are geared towards the Windows operating system, and being able to scan your Windows drive within Linux is very useful. Justin has written an article regarding the validity of a Linux antivirus and the best tools for the job The 4 Best Free Linux Anti-Virus Programs The 4 Best Free Linux Anti-Virus Programs Read More .

Conclusion

When it comes to PC security, maintenance and recovery it really does pay to be one step ahead of the game. If you’ve got a spare USB stick you’re willing to sacrifice (2GB or more) then you’ll find loading speeds and boot-up time to be faster than a CD counterpart.

You won’t know how useful that live CD can be until you really need it!

Have you got a spare live CD in the drawer? Do you use a USB stick? Which distribution? Has it ever saved your bacon? Let us know in the comments below.

  1. Markus
    March 21, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    Without that horrible bad Windows Xp i would never have tried Linux and started to use it. Now three successful years using just Linux and enjoying it.

  2. fruitgeek
    March 16, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    Another use is safely formatting flash drives that you know are infected with malware. You don't want to plug it into windows because the autorun.ini file will just cause your system to become infected. I use a mac for this, but PC users should do this with linux.

  3. Guest
    March 16, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Lubuntu is the fastest version of Ubuntu if speed is important to you.

  4. Saqib
    March 15, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    Yes, always keep yourself a live CD or DVD, to boot from it and solve windows issues.

  5. Anonymous
    March 15, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    Linux Mint and Puppy Linux are my two favorites for rescuing PCs.

    mysilentscream.com

  6. Guest
    March 15, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    These are all reasons someone who is somewhat competent with computers should have a boot cd. You forgot one of the most important reasons a regular person should have one: Boot it up before you do internet banking! It is much more secure than using a (possibly rooted) windows box.

  7. scottvolltrauer
    March 15, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    Linux Mint and Puppy Linux are my two favorites for rescuing PCs.

    mysilentscream.com

  8. Tina
    March 15, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    Great article, Tim!

    I have been carrying around a Knoppix live CD for years. That alone must have kept Windows from going corrupt, as I haven't had any urgent problems with Windows ever since. :)

  9. Tina
    March 15, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    Great article, Tim!

    I have been carrying around a Knoppix live CD for years. That alone must have kept Windows from going corrupt, as I haven't had any urgent problems with Windows ever since. :)

  10. Joemac1
    March 15, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    Ubuntu 10.10 saved my bacon recently. My windows server crashed, and booting with Ubuntu allowed me to save all critical files. Years of data.

  11. Anonymous
    March 15, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Fixing corrupted windows registry will be easy with Ubuntu live cd.

  12. majhiduniya
    March 15, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    gr8 ! thanx !

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  13. Tim Brookes
    March 15, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Here you go, there appears to be a download link at the bottom of this page: http://www.hirensbootcd.org/do...

  14. Bobjones
    March 15, 2011 at 9:46 am
  15. Bobjones
    March 15, 2011 at 10:46 am
  16. Anonymous
    March 15, 2011 at 8:14 am

    where will I get this 'hiren boot cd' http://www.hiren.info/pages/bootcd as downloader ?

  17. Anonymous
    March 15, 2011 at 8:13 am

    where will i get 'hiren boot cd'...http://www.hiren.info/pages/bootcd......to download ?

  18. majhiduniya
    March 15, 2011 at 9:14 am

    where will I get this 'hiren boot cd' http://www.hiren.info/pages/bo... as downloader ?

  19. majhiduniya
    March 15, 2011 at 9:13 am

    where will i get 'hiren boot cd'...http://www.hiren.info/pages/bo... download ?

  20. Bheeelaat
    March 15, 2011 at 4:12 am

    I also use hiren boot cd it has a mini windows xp

  21. Ravi Shankar
    March 15, 2011 at 3:20 am

    Yes! The best article ever. I always tell my friends to have a live Ubuntu USB drive just in case of any WINDOWS FAILURES (which is so very common!). Now I have a proof to show...!

    • Tim Brookes
      March 15, 2011 at 10:57 am

      The people you tell will probably thank you one day when they can get their data back after a Windows meltdown!

  22. Drew
    March 14, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    I'm always fixing friend's and family's computers (usually fickle laptops) and I always keep a live cd of the latest Linux Mint (32 and 64 bit) in order to save their documents from format/reinstall or even in some cases installing linux itself. a spare usb drive would be even more ideal, but cds/dvds work fine for now. Linux has been a savior to my own desktop multiple times and it's what got me started with computers in general!

  23. Mandi
    March 14, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    Hirens boot does the job too :) Its free, have tons of hw tests to perform and that mini xp saved me from a lot of trouble :)

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