Tools for the job (Part 4) - Anatomy of a live CD

6/1/2012 2:46:16 PM

The bottom line

The list above is by no means exhaustive, and there are new tools and compilations springing up all of the time. And the live distros and tools listed can be downloaded for free, and burned to a CD or USB stick.

It should be noted that, while these are extremely useful tools, they need a certain amount of expertise in Windows, if not in Linux, in order to be of use. It is still far too easy to completely trash a Windows installation with injudicious use of the powerful tools available. For example, if you don’t understand the basic rules of hard disk partitioning, you’re probably not best suited to manipulating hard disk partitions. That said, for the careful and reasonably tech-savvy user, they’re great additions to the toolkit at a great price – free!

Anatomy of a live CD

Live CDs are disc-based installations of an operating system, usually Linux, which can be booted and run without having to install themselves on the hard drive.

Description: Linux LiveCD can be Helpful

Linux LiveCD can be Helpful

A Linux live CD (or a live USB stick) will run the ISOLinux boot loader, using it to launch the OS into RAM from the media. Usually the OS will create a temporary RAMdisk for caching variable data.

If possible, some will install themselves completely into RAM, and only load programs as and when needed from the CD, although some, like Puppy, have clever routines that will allow you to save changes to the empty space on a CD or USB stick.

They were originally designed as a way for someone to try Linux without having to make any changes to their PC (and hence their Windows installation would remain safe), but many people rapidly recognised that they could be extremely useful when your Microsoft OS is too poorly to rouse ifself.

You may be able to restore the system, or in the worst-case scenario, you can at least use it to recover any valuable data from the disks before reinstalling

Anti-virus companies have been quick to realize the advantages of booting from a ‘clean’ read-only medium when fighting malware, and although some of them use a Windows ‘pre-installation environment’ CD, many of them use a Linux-based live CD that you can boot to run their software.

Live CD distros can be also be used for running firewalls or routers, their read-only format making them particularly hard to infect with rootkits, for example.

If you buy a server from one of the bigger operators such as HP, Fujisu or Dell, these days it comes with a Linux-based live CD which will create RAID arrays, format disks, configure hardware, and install the OS of your choice (Windows Server, Suse Enterprise or Redhat Linux usually) with all required drivers in place.

You can even find tools in Linux distros for creating your own tailored live OS CDs should you wish to.

Why are they free?

These tools have been developed by a wide range of developers, some by individuals, some by groups, and some by companies. Many hours can go into producing a finished bug-free version.

Often they are initially created as a solution to a particular problem, and because it is very rare for only one person to have a particular problem, they tend to grow.

There are many reasons for making the final product free. It may, for example, be a ‘taster’ for a more advanced, non-free version. It may simply be free through the developer’s wish to return benefit to the community, through simple altruism, or it may be the combined work of so many widely spread individuals that it would be impossible to release it any other way. The open-source community is one of the most diverse on the planet, with people from all walks of life and every race under the sun contributing in one way or another.

You may find some more to your liking than others, but if you find one useful, spread the word on forums and in the Micro Mart letters pages; let others know about them. If they’ve saved your precious data, or you find yourself using them to help you make a living, consider making a donation. After all, the developers work hard to perfect these tools, and they deserve our thanks and recognition.

  •  Processor Group Test (Part 4) - Intel Core i5-2500K
  •  Processor Group Test (Part 3) - Intel Core i3-2100
  •  Processor Group Test (Part 2) - AMD FX-8120
  •  Processor Group Test (Part 1) - AMD A8-3870K
  •  Linux – Harsh words
  •  Amiga – Amiga on the web
  •  AMD Radeon HD 7870
  •  A Complete Instruction For Your PC Kit And How To Buy (Part 5) - Overclockers UK Primo 6100i
  •  A Complete Instruction For Your PC Kit And How To Buy (Part 4) - Orange Amplification OPC
  •  A Complete Instruction For Your PC Kit And How To Buy (Part 3) - Samsung 300E5A-A01
  •  A Complete Instruction For Your PC Kit And How To Buy (Part 2) - HP Envy 14
  •  A Complete Instruction For Your PC Kit And How To Buy (Part 1) - Asus N55SF
  •  Buying Guide: Memory Kit (Part 2) - Corsair Dominator GT With DHX Pro Connector, G. Skill RipjawsZ DDR3-2133 & Mushkin Enhanced Redline 16GB DDR3-2133
  •  Buying Guide: Memory Kit (Part 1) - Centon Advanced DDR3-2133 16GB (CMP2133PC4096.01K4)
  •  Thermaltake Tt eSPORTS MEKA G-UNIT
  •  Thermaltake BigWater 760 PLUS
  •  SilverStone ST85F-G Evolution
  •  Logisys Dracula VGA Cooler
  •  Linux Expert Advice – May 2012 (Part 2)
  •  Linux Expert Advice – May 2012 (Part 1) - Configure defaut programs
    Top 10
    The Hot Five – Q1 2013 (Part 2) - HTC 8X, Asus Padfone , Sony Xperia T
    The Hot Five - Q1 2013 (Part 1) : Apple iPhone 5, Nokia Lumia 920
    DDMF DirectionalEQ Effect Plugin
    Four Of The Best Stereo Systems (Part 4)
    Four Of The Best Stereo Systems (Part 3)
    Four Of The Best Stereo Systems (Part 2)
    Four Of The Best Stereo Systems (Part 1)
    Steinberg Cubase 7 – The Fantastic Success (Part 1)
    Canon EOS C500 and EOS-1DC: 4K Cameras Now!
    Tips And Tricks To Set You Apart From The Tech Crowd (Part 7)
    Most View
    Windows 7 : Command-Line and Automation Tools - The MS-DOS Environment
    XAML in WPF
    Social Networking Tips & Tricks (May 2012)
    Configuring A Child - Friendly iPad
    Windows Server 2008 : Installing and Configuring FTP Services (part 2) - Configuring the FTP 7.5 Features and Properties
    Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac - Making Running Windows A Pleasure
    Dell Introduced Two Mobile Workstations Using Ivy Bridge Chip
    Building Out Of Browser Silverlight Applications - Using COM Interoperability and File System Access
    The Personalised Internet (Part 1)
    Sharepoint 2007: Upload a File Using the Explorer View
    20 Essential Window 8 Apps (Part 2)
    How To Build The Ultimate AMD Gaming Rig
    HP Pavilion M6-1045dx
    What Might Have Been
    How To Buy…A NOTEBOOK PC (Part 1)
    Synology DiskStation DS212j
    Windows 7 : Creating Backups and Preparing for Problems (part 2) - Scheduling and Managing Automated Backups
    Choosing The Right Components (Part 2)
    PhotoDirector 3 - Gets snap happy
    Separating BPM and SOA Processes : BPM-Oriented Disputes with TIBCO (part 2) - BusinessWorks Orchestration Processes & ActiveMatrix ESB Processes