Linux

Review: SystemRescueCD

SystemRescueCD contains a number of outstanding tools that can help you to troubleshoot and repair Linux desktops and servers, and Windows machines.

As much as information technology professionals don't like it, there are times when emergency measures are necessary. You never know when a virus will take down a machine (or network), or a partition table will become corrupt. Because you never know what will strike (and when it will happen) it is always best to have a multitude of recovery tools available.

In some instances, it is as easy as restoring a previous image. But in other instances, you will have to resort to a rescue/recovery tool. SystemRescueCD is a Linux-based rescue disk that contains a number of outstanding tools that can help you to troubleshoot (and hopefully repair) Linux desktops, Linux servers, and Windows machines.

Specifications

  • GNU Parted: creates, resizes, moves, copies partitions, and filesystems (and more)
  • GParted GUI: implementation using the GNU Parted library
  • Partimage: popular opensource disk image software which works at the disk block level
  • FSArchiver: flexible archiver that can be used as both system and data recovery software
  • File systems tools (for Linux and Windows filesystems): format, resize, and debug an existing partition of a hard disk
  • Ntfs3g: enables read/write access to MS Windows NTFS partitions
  • Sfdisk: saves / restores partition table (and more)
  • Memtest+: to test the memory of your computer (first thing to test when you have a crash or unexpected problems)
  • Network tools: (Samba, NFS, ping, and nslookup) to backup your data across the network
  • Additional vendor information
  • TechRepublic Photo Gallery

Who's it for?

SystemRescueCD is an outstanding tool that aids the system administrator in the task of restoring partitions, troubleshooting boot manager (Grub and LILO), backing up windows partitions, burning critical data to CD (Requires SystemRescueCD to be run from USB) and much more. SystemRescueCD can be used in both Graphical and text mode which makes it very versatile for administrators.

What problem does it solve?

SystemRescueCD solves many problems for the administrator: Resize partitions, create partitions, recover lost partitions, recover lost data, boot disk creation, and much more.

Standout features

  • GnuParted, fdisk, Partimage: Partition editors/managers
  • Testdisk: Partition recovery
  • CD/DVD burner
  • Archiving and unarchiving
  • Support for many file systems
  • Windows registry editing (text only)
  • FreeDOS for memory testing and other hardware diagnostics

What's wrong?

The biggest problem many users will come across is the fact that some of the tools are not as user-friendly as some of the tools they are used to. Add to that, the issue of the sometimes graphically-challenged machines which will render the administrator locked into text-only mode and SystemRescueCD can be as much of a challenge to use as the problems it is trying to fix.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

If you are looking for yet another tool to add to your system rescue toolkit, you should not overlook SystemRescueCD. With a solid set of tools on a LiveCD it is a must have for serious system administrators. There might be a bit of a learning curve for some of the more difficult tools, but it is worth the time and effort.

User rating

Have you encountered or used SystemRescueCD? If so, what do you think? Rate your experience and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review.

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About

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.

17 comments
mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

Linux and its programmers have a product (free or for profit) that they could build and kick ass. Ghost sucks, Acronis sucks, system commander sucks, and so forth. But, NOOOOO, they want to do all the nerdy stuff and don't realize that if they could just create a program that would allow users to create full system rescue disks they would really have a hot deal. Bottom Line: A system CD has to: 1.Build a virtual disk and install itself to RAM so that the user can immediately burn an image from the hard drive to a CD/DVD after removing the rescue disk in those cases where there is only one CD/DVD/Burner. 2. The image CD/DVD or rescue CD has to be able to boot the computer and install the image with little or no user intervention. Boot to CD, install virtual ram disk, then install rescue image from image CD/DVD. This is the stuff that has to be newbie proof and will create buzz that will drive people to your door. 2. THEN, the restore / rescue CD should do all the "superman to the recue" maintenance stuff partitioning, booting a PC for repair etc. etc. As it is now users have to scramble around, cobble together a bunch of geeky widgets and then jump through their butt holes to make it all work. If you morons could just get it through your heads that everything revolves around people and make your stuff people friendly. If no one liked your stuff it wouldn't happen. I keep hearing all this stuff about wanting to take over the desktop. You won't do it until you learn the first lesson that Microsoft has learned. You have to make stuff that a monkey can use, it has to be super friendly, smiling GUI and all; at least the most common apps, tasks etc. The Unbuntu guys are starting to get it right.

elmakdi
elmakdi

Many times it's been a life/time saver for me: data recovery, lost partition rescuing, password recovery... and works great as a simple live CD. I wish I was aware of the many tools it included earlier. SuperGrub is also a great tool for MBR recovery...

amabilis
amabilis

I've been using this since a few years already and it can save an admins life, not only with password recovery tool included ;-)

EJCServant
EJCServant

I agree with the earlier answer by someone who said "It depends on the rescue." I've used this before, and it is good in different aspects.

seeker5528
seeker5528

System Rescue CD and RIP (Recovery Is Possible) are my main tools, depending on the situation.

cyberdyne2
cyberdyne2

You may want to add Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD) to your Rescue Tools list too. I often use these two along side each other.

Ken Wolf
Ken Wolf

And what is the name of this Microsoft built rescue CD? I am unaware of such an application. It is because of Linux that these tools are available and work so well, even on MS operating systems as many here have attested too. Yes, there are many utilities available and trying to collect them in one place can be a task. That is why OSS developers have devoted their time and a lot of effort to build these live CD's. Not sure what your beef is? Are you looking for an suite of utilities that run without user intervention making all the decisions on it's own? Tall order indeed, even for Microsoft. Or maybe I have missed your point?

FXEF
FXEF

I use Linux LiveCDs to repair broken Windows boxes and rescue data from Windows hard drives that will not boot all the time with no problems. Us morons using Linux are not having any problems with Linux LiveCDs.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Nothing you say? Oh.. so who are you to demand developers focus there energy on a specific bit of software? Now, if you want bare metal recovery disks, there are options you could look at. Clonezilla just released a new version including "boot to ram so my computer can burn disks right away" mode. I'm partial to Mondo Rescue which I use to take a clean install image of the system. Stick the boot CD in the drive and it asks "should I verify this image or restore it to the drive for you" all "superman to the rescue" like. Personally, I'm looking at something more like Backula enterprise backup and bare metal recovery but, that's just me.

MyopicOne
MyopicOne

...but these guys need some help with interface design and I'm pretty geeky. I've also used Knoppix with the same good results - a better interface but missing some of the nice things SystemRescue has - or I simply couldn't find them.

stanberka
stanberka

Recently, one of my home laptops failed. Windows wasn't starting, or if it was, it would take 20-30 minutes to do it and end up with a BSOD at first attempt to do anything. I tried the pre-loaded diagnostics tools, which were detecting only some obscure disk warning or error (Linear Verify Error). Unfortunately, users of the tools used for this, PC-Doctor of the version per-loaded was reported to false report this error on some types of HD's. With the help of SystemRecoveryCD, I was able to copy all important files of the HD by mounting the HD with a ntfs-3g and mounting my external HD connected to USB. That was a point for SystemRescueCD. A negative point was, I didn't find a quick way to further diagnose the HD using the SystemRecoveryCD. Which tool from that CD was I supposed to be using?

cmatthews
cmatthews

I use a version of BartPE called "ubcd4win" with a dash of Portable apps, a couple of nirSoft pieces, FastStone screencap portable, SIW portable, WinAudit and ALL the SysInternals utils.. Happy user of M.Russinovich tools since 1996. www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uHHENkT4dY

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

SystemRescue, SuperGRUB, Backtrack, Knoppix I wouldn't leave home without all of them.

Angel_Tech
Angel_Tech

Hiren's CD has saved so many WIndows computers.. especially the MBR tools :)

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