If you need to repair PCs, even if you don’t use Linux as a rule, you should have a Linux repair CD. These self-booting Linux distributions give you all the software tools you need to bring all but the deadest computers back to life. The best of these distributions is, hands-down, SystemRescueCd.
I’ve been using SystemRescueCd for years, and it has saved my rump many times. With every new version, SystemRescueCd has continued to get better.
Now, after years of development, project leader Francois Dupoux has released Version 1.0 of this great Gentoo-Linux-based distribution. A wonderful tool before, with this update, SystemRescueCd has become a necessity for anyone doing either individual or corporate PC repair work.
For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of using SystemRescueCd, the Linux kernel 220.127.116.11-based distribution can be booted from either a CD-ROM or a USB stick. Once it’s running, and I’ve yet to meet a busted PC that still had a working CPU and memory it couldn’t run on, you have your choice of the lightweight WindowsMaker GUI or a shell command-line interface.
The distribution comes with a variety of system tools, such as the low-level disk partition programs GParted and sfdisk and disk repair tools like TestDisk and Partimage. For higher levels of repair, it comes with such programs as Midnight Commander, an excellent file manager based on the design of the old MS-DOS Norton Commander and CD/DVD writing tools such as dvd+rwtools.
SystemRescueCd can be used with almost any PC file system, including EXT2/3, FAT (file allocation table), NTFS (NT File System), ISO9660, ReiserFS/4, XFS and the most important network file systems, CIFS (Common Internet File System) and NFS (Network File System). With this new version, it also supports GPT disklabel. With GPT (GUID Partition Table), users can use enormous — 2TB and larger — hard drives with more than four primary partitions.
The new SystemRescueCd also has better support for fried graphic systems. It now includes Xvesa. This is a generic X Window server that can deliver a graphics interface without needing to know anything about the graphics hardware. You won’t get a great display, but any graphic display is better than none.
The distribution has also become more useful to PC repair techs who work in an enterprise. Thanks to improved PXE (Preboot Execution Environment) network boot and associated utility support, you will be able to both work on server repair remotely, or, what will probably be more common, use SystemRescueCd to restore backups and PC images to a broken or new PC from a server.
In addition, SystemRescueCd 1.0 has several minor improvements. For example, it once more supports x486 systems for those of us who work with decade-old systems, and improved its Wi-Fi support and its ability to read and write to NTFS.