Open Source

The five best emergency toolkit apps to have in the field

Maybe you can't anticipate every type of tech crisis you're going to run into. But these five recovery tools will help you resolve a lot of dicey problems.

Quick: If you had to narrow down your portable toolkit to just five tools, what would they be? Hard to name them, isn't it? Well, never fear. I have put together a list of five tools, and I think you will agree they all have a place in the perfect emergency toolkit. Each tool serves a different purpose. Together, they make up a kit that I think will make your life a heck of a lot easier.

Note: This list is also available as a photo gallery.

1: ComboFix

ComboFix (Figure A) is the Mac Daddy of virus and malware removal tool. It goes even further and removes rootkits and Trojans. But this isn't one of those tools you can install on a machine and let it work in the background. ComboFix must be added to the machine, run on the machine, and removed from the machine. And while this tool is running, don't let anyone use the machine it's cleaning. ComboFix can cause panic on a PC if things go south.

Figure A



KNOPPIX (Figure B) is a live Linux distribution that can fit on a flash drive. With it, you can boot into a full-blown Linux distribution that contains many helpful tools. You can recover data from an unbootable drive, troubleshoot various aspects of a non-booting Windows drive, remove corrupt files, and much more. Many people don't realize just how valuable it is to have a full-blown, bootable Linux distribution with more than 2 GB of software ready and waiting.

Figure B


3: PuTTY

Being able to secure shell into a remove machine at all times is invaluable. For many, the use of the simple RDP protocol is fine. Problem is, it's not nearly as secure as it should be. So if you want your remote logins to be secure, add a little ssh goodness to your toolkit. PuTTY (Figure C) gives you just that — a Windows executable that allows you to connect to any remote machine running a secure shell daemon (so long as you have the credentials to get through).

Figure C


4: BlueScreenView

When Windows blue screens, it spits out a core dump. That core dump contains a lot of valuable information that can help you figure out what caused that blue screen. Trust me, that is a heck of a lot better than trying to write down what the blue screen message displays —and usually, that's not much. There is one catch here. I am a fan of the Ccleaner tool. Ccleaner is set up, by default, to remove all those memory dump files. So if you use Ccleaner, be sure you uncheck the option to delete those files. Otherwise, a tool like BlueScreenView (Figure D) will be of no use.

Figure D


5: Roadkil's Unstoppable Copier

Roadkil's Unstoppable Copier (Figure E) does one thing and it does it well: It copies data from broken drives. And it's good at it. But UC isn't just for getting data off broken drives. You can also use it as a daily backup (using the Batch Mode function). That's right. Not only will it recover data, it will help prevent you from needing to recover that data from a bad drive. This tool works by attempting to recover any readable piece of a file and then tries to put the pieces together. It's pretty amazing how well it works.

Figure E

Unstoppable Copier

First aid for field emergencies

If you've been looking for the perfect toolkit to handle emergency recoveries, look no further than the five tools above. With this combination, you should be able to tackle just about any software crisis you encounter in the field.


Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website

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