Think 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
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. There’s a lot of great information there!
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!
Find out more about Memtest courtesy of our good friend Varun, and his excellent article about Memtest,
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.
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!
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!
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!