Our consulting firm has had a rash of problems recently that required the help of Linux rescue tools. From corrupt partition tables to severely infected machines, Linux tools come in handy when the host system won't boot. But because of the plethora of tools available, it's sometimes tough to sift through the cruft and find the ones that are usable. So I decided to highlight some of the better tools. I hope one or two of them will find their way to your toolkit.
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1: Knoppix[UPDATE: New link] Knoppix is one of the better tools for rescuing data from sick machines. It's a full-blown live Linux distribution with a strong, user-friendly GUI that will allow you to easily mount a drive and then copy the data (which you will locate in an easy-to-use file manager) to an external source. Of course, Knoppix comes with the full arsenal of Linux commands, which place just about everything you need at your fingertips.
2: Trinity Rescue Kit
Trinity Rescue Kit might leave you wondering, "Why isn't this tool being developed faster and on a larger scale? Although TRK is rather slow to develop, what it offers is just short of amazing. Place it on a USB drive, boot your virus-laden machine, and scan the mounted drives with clamav, antivir, bitdefender, and more. This tool is all command line, so you might have to bone up on your commands to really make use of it.
3: Avira AntiVir
Avira AntiVir is a command-line antivirus tool that is fast, robust, and dependable. There is a GUI tool, but installing it is almost more trouble than it's worth. (It requires Java.) Installing AntiVir on Linux isn't the easiest of tasks, but it's certainly no kernel compilation.
4: GParted Live
GParted Live is a live Linux distribution that allows you to manipulate partitions on a drive. It supports numerous file systems and lets you can resize, create, and delete, partitions. You can run GParted Live from a CD or a USB drive, so it's very portable.
SystemRescueCd is another live Linux rescue CD that offers numerous tools to handle numerous tasks, including partition manipulation, file recovery, hard disk testing, ftp, and disk formatting. As with most live Linux distributions, you can place SystemRescueCd on either or CD or USB drive, and it offers an easy-to-use GUI and plenty of tools.
6: Ubuntu Rescue Remix
Ubuntu Rescue Remix is quickly becoming one of my favorite data recovery tools. Like all good live Linux CD tools, it includes an outstanding GUI (it is Ubuntu after all) that can help you handle tasks other tools can't handle. You can recover and rescue Mac files/filesystems, recover data from nonstandard external drives, recover deleted files, and more. The one thing URR is missing is antivirus tools. But, since this is a Linux rescue disc, once installed, you can simply add the tools you need to your USB live CD.
7: F-Secure Rescue CD
F-Secure Rescue CD is based on Knoppix and allows you to check the integrity of your installed applications. It also allows advanced data repair and recovery, as well as recovery from that ever-dreaded malware!
Ddrescue is a Linux tool designed to copy data from one file block device to another. This tool will aid you in rescuing data when your drive is suffering from read errors. Unlike many of the tools on this list, Ddrescue is not a live distribution but a tool you will use on a running Linux machine. So to rescue data, you will have to attach that troubled disk to the working Linux machine.
Safecopy is similar to ddrescue, allowing you to copy files from a disk suffering from I/O errors. It also includes a tool that allows you to read data from CDs in raw mode, as well as issue device resets and simulate bad media for testing and benchmarking.
10: Linux rescue mode
This is the only entry on the list that isn't a downloadable tool. Linux rescue mode is a mode booted with the help of a Linux boot CD, allowing you to repair a broken system. From rescue mode, you can recover a root password, repair or reinstall the boot loader, and more. When you boot into rescue mode, it will typically mount your installed system into /mnt/sysimage, where you can take care of any business necessary.
More rescue tools?
These 10 Linux tools can help you recover, rescue, and repair a Linux, Windows, or Mac machine. Of course, plenty more tools are out there. Have you come across a Linux tool that can help you repair or recover a damaged or sick drive? If so, share it with your fellow TechRepublic members.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.