Microsoft

DIY: A magical Live partition/rescue tool

There's a lot to love about Parted Magic. It's open source, free, easy to use, and has a number of tools for helping you recover, test, and repair a system.

There are numerous rescue tools available, and yet any chance I get to highlight one I take it. Why? Because you can never have enough tools to ensure your data is safe from loss.

The type of recovery/rescue/partition tool I find most attractive is Live CD. These recovery tools are usually based on a Linux distribution, so they can be run from the disk as if they were a full-blown operating system in and of themselves (which, in many cases, they are).

My latest live partition/rescue tool discovery is Parted Magic. It has been available since 2010, but it's new to me. Here's some of what Parted Magic includes:

  • Partition Tools (such as cfdisk, fdisk, gdisk, gpart, Gparted)
  • File System Tools (such as btrfs, dosfstools, e2fsprogs, FUSE, hfsplus, ntfs-3g, sshfs, reiser4progs)
  • Boot Loader Tools (such as grub, HDT, install-mbr, lilo, ms-sys, syslinux)
  • X Utilities (such as Firefox, emelFM2, File Roller, GencFS, hardinfo, SIO Master, Mount-gtk, Leafpad, LXTerminal, PCman FM, SimpleBurn, TrueCrypt)
  • Console Utilities (bzip2recover, chntpw, cmospwd, ClamAV, Clonezilla, cURL, dcfldd, dd, ddresecue, di, diff, disktype, dmraid, openSSH, partimage, shred, TestDisk, TightVNC-viewer, wipe)

For a complete listing of the included tools, check out the Programs page on the Parted Magic site.

Installation

Since Parted Magic is a tool run as a Live CD, there isn't much to say about installation — just download the ISO, burn the image to disk, put the disk in the machine, and boot the machine. Shortly after boot begins, the Parted Magic desktop will appear (Figure A). Figure A

Parted Magic adds some interesting tools to the mix.

What sets Parted Magic apart?

The desktop makes no bones about Parted Magic being a recovery/rescue tool. Some of these types of tools like to play around as if they are a regular desktop.

Parted Magic includes icons for some of the tools most likely to be used immediately. In fact, there is even a widget on the desktop reporting:

  • CPU stats
  • RAM stats
  • Processes
  • Uptime

There are also the icons you will want to start out with immediately:

  • System Profiler: Know the details of the system you are working on.
  • Disk Health: Know the health of the disks in the system.
  • Partition Editor: Modify the partitions if necessary.
  • File Manager: Locate files to be recovered, if needed.

One tool that will be of interest to many Windows admins is the chntpw command-line tool, which allows you to reset the Windows administrator (or any Windows user) password. You can do this by following these steps:

  1. Use the Mount-gtk tool to mount the Windows partitions.
  2. Open up terminal window and issue the command chntpw /media/sda1/WINDOWS/system32/config/SAM (sda1 may change, depending upon the partitioning scheme of your Windows drive).
  3. From the presented menu, select 1 and press Enter. This will clear the Administrative user's password.
  4. Go back to the Mount-gtk tool and unmount the Windows drive.
  5. Reboot the machine, removing the Parted Magic disk.
  6. Log in to Windows as the administrative user with a blank password.
  7. Reset the Administrative user password immediately.
Another tool that can come in handy is the System Stability Tester. It will run numerous tests (using Pi calculations) and report if there are any system failures (Figure B). No, it will not check the stability of every piece of hardware on the system; this is simply a stress test that originated from an overclockers forum. But if you want to know how well your CPU can handle some fast, hard stress, this will do it. Figure B

A successful test using the System Stability Tester

Bottom line

Anyone on a tight budget will appreciate this DIY-friendly recovery tool. Give Parted Magic a whirl and see if it doesn't wind up replacing your current rescue/repair/recovery tool.

About Jack Wallen

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 jackwallen.com.

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