Fixing Windows using a Live Linux CD – part one

Posted by: Rea Maor In: Microsoft and Windows - Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

Try as we might, we sometimes get Windows in such a bind that we can’t run it. Virus attacks, trojans, and malware just go with the territory. Don’t feel bad, as even the geekiest of us sometimes get Windows hopelessly wedged, even to where we can’t boot it in safe mode.

If this happens to you often and you’re tired of re-installing Windows or can’t re-install because you don’t have the original disk, we’re going to walk you through the strategies for obtaining a live Linux CD, which you can then boot and get your machine running long enough to fix the problem.

First off, the Windows user will probably be daunted at the huge selection of Linux distros. The difference between one distro and another is actually only a matter of what other software comes installed with it. You’d have to imagine if Microsoft made a “Windows for graphics artists” distribution that came with Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and Maya 3D included. Or a “Gamer’s Windows” with a selection of the top popular games installed and the latest Direct Draw/sound card/graphics card drivers to ensure everything runs smoothly. Really, that’s all that’s going on with the various Linux distributions.

The top Linux live CDs to recommend for a Windows repair emergency:

  1. The Trinity Rescue Kit: a whole Linux distro specifically for our purpose of fixing Windows. Amongst it’s many abilities, it can easily reset Windows passwords, includes four different virus-scan products, has full NTFS write support, can even clone an NTFS file system over the network, has an easy script to find all local file systems, and can do recovery and undeletion of files. The only downside here is that it’s a command-line based distro – if you’re not handy with a command line (such as Windows Power Shell), you’re going to be intimidated.
  2. Knoppix and Mepis: Knoppix and Mepis are both desktop-oriented distros with all the flashy features of the latest KDE desktop, and are both full-service systems for general purposes. The KDE desktop will feel very familiar to Windows users, and both of these distros are specifically aimed at people who are used to Windows. Knoppix has much more software installed on it than Mepis, while Mepis has more focus on high-end hardware support.
  3. Linspire: Those who are least sure of their computer skills should try the Linspire live CD. Since they openly advertise “the world’s easiest desktop Linux” and recommend it as “perfect for Windows users”, it seems their goal is to come as close to copying Windows as they can without getting sued. The desktop will even give you familiar icons including the file manager named “My Computer”, a Windows-like start menu, and so on.

For our purposes for the rest of this series, any one of these four will be enough. If you want to explore further, a site like DistroWatch and LinuxQuestions will be helpful.

OK, let’s say you’ve picked your distro and downloaded it. Now you have a file ending in “.iso” on your computer, and you have a blank CD in your hand. What do you do next? That’s where we’ll pick up next time.

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10 Responses to “Fixing Windows using a Live Linux CD – part one”

  1. webjourneyman Says:

    What if I´d like to swich completly to running Linux instead of Windows on my Labtop (Dell Inspiron 6000)?

    And say I´d like to start gradually and just set up a survivals version of Linux with the ability to surfe websites, send e-mail´s and write/edit documents similar to word, any recommended Distros (what un-trust inspiring first intro to Linux)?

  2. webjourneyman Says:

    I mean the word Distros b.t.w. ;stoned)

  3. Rea Maor Says:

    I’ll tell you what i’m telling all of my friends who wish to move from Windows to Linux… it’s not always smooth and easy as it seems… i would suggest you do Dual Boot at first or just use a LIVE CD which will enable you to boot a full system out of your CD or DVD drive without the need to Install or delete any of the old files…

  4. Nafcom Says:

    Windows Vista has a great thing here: In older Windows, you had no access to the system restore when Windows refused to boot up you only could use the recovery console and replace all files in 50% of all cases, Windows XP got destroyed more then (bluescreen, etc). In Vista howerver you have the Vista CD which you can just boot up and into Vista’s PE graphical enviroment and run all the system critical stuff like system restore points, Vista’s disk image, etc. 🙂

  5. Rea Maor Says:

    Yes 🙂 finally.. very nice of them to publish such a tool while linux (or 3rd party software – Bart’s PE for example) had those capabilities long ago.

  6. Nafcom Says:

    @Rea: Are you sure? I might be wrong, but I know Bart’s PE Builder since version 1 and I cannot remember to have seen the ability to access to Windows’ System Restore points.

  7. Rea Maor Says:

    No, no.. not directly into Restore point, but it will enable you to run SCF scan to check if any system files are damaged on top of the other features (letting you access your Registery or running vary of utilities via CD without installing them)

  8. Nafcom Says:

    And that’s exactly the point. Some damages require this so you can not do it with such tools.

  9. Rea Maor Says:

    I guess it’s up to me now to check and review this 🙂

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