The best Live CD to rescue data


*UPDATED – September 5 2015*

Hello! It’s been 16 days (or 17) since I wrote a tech post. This one is very important for me in that it took me a long time to analyse all the available solutions on the market. It took my brains out and kept them engaged them all day and night, just to conclude which is the best Live CD for any system that I encounter. Some are dead simple to use, few are totally command-line (or terminal) and most are hybrids. Personally I prefer the third option. A large number of people will prefer the first type.

I have ranked them countdown wise with big numbers.

I will list all the utilities I will require for rescuing data from a system crash (for example, when it is impossible to boot into Windows, or if you forgot your Windows or BIOS password). Here they are:

  • Web browser (eg. Firefox)
  • Disk cloning tool (like Clonezilla?)
  • Hard disk wiping tool
  • ‘dd’ backup option
  • gzip and bzip2 CMD apps
  • Nice bootloader
  • Diagnostic tools
  • Text editor (to make notes or scripts on-the-spot)
  • Data recovery tool (TestDisk?)
  • Complete Internet connectivity support
  • Support for any filesystem (Linux or Mac or Windows)
  • CD/DVD burning tool (in case you want to backup data onto them)

 

best Live CD 

 

I tested every possible Live CD and distro “specially made” for this task. I will highlight some of the best ones here: Damn Small Linux (DSL), SystemRescueCD, Trinity Rescue Kit, Parted Magic, Rescatux, Redo Backup, Ultimate Boot CD.

Why I did not include CloneZilla Live?

It is because it does not tick any box except the first one in my checklist.

Why I included DSL?

It does not have disk cloning tool, disk wiping tool and data recovery tool. But it can be your best bet on the old Pentium 486 machine with 16 MB RAM.

1. DSL 4.11 RC2

(to be used with the best at the bottom of article)

It is a good and fast Live CD for doing dd backups. It has Firefox and text editor, and looks great while having lot of functionality in 50 MBs in a time when you have 15 GB Windows 8.1 installations.

So which one did I choose as the best of the lot?

6. Parted Magic 01/08/2013

Remember Parted Magic is now paid, and the last free version (01/08/2013) is lethal poison to your PC’s hardware. As quoted by Parted Magic author Patrick on his site:

“WARNING! A few sites on the internet are offering a file called pmagic_2013_08_01.iso for free download. This version was released with a very destructive USB corruption bug in the Linux kernel. We removed this file from our official mirrors to minimize the damage and quickly released version 2013_08_10 to replace it. The 2013_08_01 version also included a bug in the OLD Secure Erase GUI that would allow a user to erase an ATA disk through a USB interface. In some cases it would brick the expensive USB device. The OLD GUI would also set the secure erase password to NULL by default and using the disk on a Lenovo BIOS is not possible because a password cannot be entered. Version 2013_09_26 does not contain these flaws and is completely safe to use. Sorry for any inconvenience or loss suffered by using this unofficial/unsupported FREE pmagic_2013_08_01.iso. You have been warned.”

Parted Magic is a paid option, and you need to give $10 for personal copy of the latest version, which means for an organisation or group it can be very costly.

5. Ultimate Boot CD 5.3.5

It is CMOS utilities plus diagnostic tools plus the state-of-the-art disk wiping tool DBAN plus Parted Magic free version. As warned, Parted Magic is extremely dangerous to use hence strictly not recommended.

4. Trinity Rescue Kit 3.4

It has text user interface (text menu) but a lot of the work has to be done through terminal (or command line). So if you do not want to dirty your hands and work in the dingy environment, keep scrolling down.

3. Rescatux 0.32 beta 3

It is a nice and easy to use Live CD for rescue operation. It can promote and erase Windows passwords and recover data and lot more in a button-style wizard mode. But the only concern is that it is still in beta mode and thus makes some users uncomortable using it. Though it is stable to a large extent.

2. Redo Backup and Recovery 1.0.4

It is the 2nd best in my test. It wins the prize for looks straight off. Super polished, while remaining small (261 MB) and has everything you would look for. It even has Facebook and Twitter apps. You can also add and use Skype during serious work. I find things like Facebook and Skype useless during such a task. Only one cons here: it cannot restore a partition backup to a single partition. Instead, it will erase any other hard disk contents and replace that with the backup. Bad when you want to restore backups to partition.

1. SystemRescueCD 4.5.4

This is the best of all and offers everything I want. It does not offer CloneZilla. Instead it offers the app on which CloneZilla runs: PartClone. Same text-based interface and same colours. Pretty much the same as CloneZilla, except the name “CloneZilla”. It can burn backups and data on CD or DVD. It offers options for erasing Windows passwords and supports even Windows 7 for that. It offers text-based, command line interfaces and graphical interface by writing “startx” in command line. It also has diagnostic tools. A treasure for system administrators and tech geeks in short, while not being hard on the newbie with its quick and extremely descriptive online guides.

 

Conclusion

SystemRescueCD is the best for any system and the most functional, while not having Facebook or multimedia stuff. In short, for serious work while not getting messy with command line. DSL is for the weak and old hardware systems.

 

Comments in the form of disagreements would be considered. But my opinion stands still till then.

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Need help on any technology matters? Email me at harshch@outlook.com

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Posted in Linux, Software
4 comments on “The best Live CD to rescue data
  1. adrian15sgd says:

    1) Rescatux 0.30.2 is available and it’s stable (unless you want to use Restore Windows MBR option which has a bug so that you should use: Rescatux 0.32 beta 2). Quite a coincidence you mention 0.32 beta 2 the same day it goes public 🙂 .
    2) Nice bootloader you mention. It’s interesting you did not mention Super Grub2 Disk (one of my other projects by the way). Probably the reason is that it’s included in Ultimate boot cd.
    3) What do you use for being able to both read and write filesystems in mac systems ? I’m not aware of any GNU/Linux live cds that do that but it would be nice to learn about it.

    Thank you for your article.

    P.S.: I advise you to put numbers next to the distros so that the ranking is easier to read.

    • A very B-I-G thanks Adrian. I saw it and tested it, hence the review. I have the latest reviews in the world, but am not popular since my blog is new to the world. Please help me rack up numbers. BTW, how did you reach to my blog? Date: Mon, 20 Oct 2014 18:27:26 +0000 To: harshch@outlook.com

      • adrian15sgd says:

        1) If you tested it in less than a day it means that either it was a good quick test or a not so good quick test. It’s unfair because you had done the review some days later I wouldn’t have noticed it.
        2) I reached your blog by searching the latest pieces of news in Rescatux.
        3) I’m sorry but I can’t link to you. However I’m going to give some pieces of advice:
        3.1) Remove spam comments. Even if you had a good article I wouldn’t have linked to you because of these spam comments. As you are beginning and you seem to be young it’s very easy to be flattered by those fake comments.
        Take a look here: https://hctechbyte.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/update-firefox-33-alpha-1/comment-page-1/#comment-128
        3.2) Use only one email address or even better provide a contact form for contacting you.
        3.3) Remove your photo. You seem too young for someone to trust on you being his tech first aid.
        3.4) Improve your reviews. Four lines per each distro reviewed is not good enough. Seems too simple. Try to put more lines and more screenshots. And, most of all, try to be coherent. I mean, you mention some points you want to check on them but then they don’t get too much mentioned later on your four line reviews.

        So, that’s it. I hope you can deal these comments ok and that they can help you to improve your work.

        • Your queries in your previous comment have been answered at:
          supergrub2-english-owner[at]lists.forja.cenatic.es

          I will reply in accordance to your comment numbers.
          1) My research is good enough, and that my review is not “not so good”. A longer research may take 3-4 days, which leaves me with no time to review the latest updates for every good software out there in every category. Keeping up with every “beta 1” and “alpha 2” is tough, hence the review. But it was intense, trust me. You lost to the other two in my opinion because of easiness of Redo Backup and DBAN and TestDisk inclusion in SystemRescueCD.
          2) Nice.
          3.1) I receive 40-50 spam comments EVERYDAY out of which it can be tough to refine the genuine ones. Sometimes the “spammed” ones marked may be genuine. So, my bad.
          3.2) My blog is a free one and does not have so many facilities. For that I have included about.me box on right side which has my emails. All are functioning right now.
          3.3) I might change my passport badly scanned pic with a new and nice one. Trust me, I look much mature. (technical limitations)
          3.4) Simple reviews are what people want to look for. Simple yet exact. That is based on my principle of “removing tech headaches”. I can put all the gobble-de-geek over there and my blog will become BS. That is just not what I made this blog for.

          I guess you can understand the last point I made. Others are implemented or will be soon. Thank you so much.

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