Fixing Windows using a Live Linux CD – part two

Posted by: Rea Maor In: Microsoft and Windows - Thursday, March 15th, 2007

Fix Windows With Linux – part 2

An .iso file is a disk image file, and it’s nothing like other files you might burn to a CD. Of course, you need a CD-RW (CD Read Write) to be able to write anything on a CD, and you want a special utility that can handle the .iso standard. Nero is a popular all-in-one utility that can handle any CD writing task, including .iso’s. It used to be shareware but it looks paid commercial now. A better solution is BurnCDCC, a freeware app which just burns .iso images and nothing more. It has about two buttons on it, and takes about one second to figure out.

Of course, you can also buy live CDs from online distributors (about two bucks apiece, most places) or get them in the back of a book (Ubuntu and Knoppix books have this), but CD burners are becoming the most popular option because everybody’s getting them these days.

When you have the CD finished, take a deep breath, reboot Windows with the CD in the drive. If all goes well, the PC will come back up as Linux. If not, be sure your BIOS is set up to check the CD drive first for a system before it checks the hard drive. Granted that you have stuck with one of the distros we recommended, you should get it up and running with no problems.

The thing to remember with a live CD is that it will do nothing permanent to your computer until you tell it to. Everything on your hard drive is still right where you left it; in fact, you can bring up a live CD even if you remove the hard drive altogether. In most cases, the live systems we’ve recommended will automatically mount the hard drive, which just means it’s found the Windows partition and is ready for action.

Check with the website for each distro to find out the specifics. Before you try the CD, look at the website’s documentation, and ask questions in the forum for it so that you know what to do. But generally, you’ll be working in either the KDE Konqueror file manager or roughing it from the command line.

An example, in command line terms, is /dev/hda1 mounted to /mnt/hda1/ The “dev” stands for “device”, “hda1” is the first partition of the first drive found, and “mnt” is the “mounted” systems. When this is enacted, what you previously called “C:\” is now “/mnt/hda1/”. Try finding it in the file manager interface for the desktop systems (or ‘cd /mnt/hda1/’ from the command line) and there you are in your C:\ drive. Browse around.

One thing to keep in mind is that Linux doesn’t heed the Windows convention of hidden, system, and archive files like Windows Explorer does. Everything is a plain old file to Linux. This is a good thing, since lots of malware and trojans exploit these features to keep you from finding and deleting them! Also, Linux programs will happily allow you to open any text file (that includes .DOS, .BAT, .INI, .SYS, etc.) edit it, and change it without worrying that you broke something. Since viruses and malware frequently write entries for themselves in these text configuration files, that also comes in handy.

We’ll explore some details and case scenarios in depth in our next installment.

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