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Cleaning Windows – the Trinity Rescue Kit

The Trinity Rescue Kit (TRK) is the work of Tom Kerremans, who also goes by the nickname 'Harikiri'. TRK is based on Mandriva Linux, and includes "all available free tools that can help you in any way to rescue your Windows installation."

Trinity Rescue Kit, he says, "is based on binaries and scripts from several other distributions, like Timo's Rescue CD, Mandriva 2005 and Fedora Core 3 and 4, as well as many original source packages and tools" from other Linux distributions, although the "start-up procedure and methods, several scripts and concept are completely self made or at least heavily adapted." Although TRK includes the means to invoke and download a range of proprietary virus scanners, the kit itself is available under the GPL and related licences.

Zoom The opening menu of the Trinity Rescue Kit.
Trinity rescue Kit offers the usual Linux utilities such as SSH and Samba for Windows file sharing, as well as the ability to reset Windows passwords and run five different virus scanner products, "integrated in a single uniform command line with online update capability." TRK has full NTFS write support "thanks to ntfs-3g", and the capability to clone computers via multicast, make backups, delete extraneous files using winclean, recover and undelete files and partitions, perform rootkit detection and the "evacuation of dying disks".

The Trinity Rescue Kit is an invaluable tool for anyone tasked with rescuing a dead or dying Windows system, and is probably as useful as any of the equivalent proprietary products on the market.

Parting the waters – Parted Magic

Parted Magic is among the more professional and practical of the small utilitarian distros. Although the name implies a singular purpose Parted Magic is the perfect tool for rescuing your system and amending the disk problems that are the affliction of those who indulge in distro hopping and multi-booting.

Parted Magic is based around GParted, the GNU Partition Editor, but also includes useful utilities such as PhotoRec, the digital photo recovery program, Partition Image, TestDisk, fdisk, sfdisk, dd, and ddrescue, as well as a comprehensive set of utilities for data retrieval. Consequently, Parted Magic has many more uses than the name suggests.

Zoom The desktop of the PartedMagic distribution.
A Parted Magic LiveCD is the perfect introduction for those who are relatively new to Linux, and are unfamiliar with the concepts of disk partitioning and dual booting. The Parted Magic wiki offers guided help in resizing, setting up and allocating partitions for Windows and Linux partitions.

Because it has a dedicated purpose, Parted Magic does not waste its resources on unnecessary extras, utilising the relatively generous Xfce desktop, and including an extensive collection of file system tools. Parted Magic supports the Ext2, Ext3, Ext4, FAT16, FAT32, hfs, hfs+, jfs, linux-swap, NTFS, ReiserFS, Reiser4, and XFS file systems, and offers wide support for Linux, Windows and Mac systems. Parted Magic is loosely based on Slackware, and as with other small distributions, programs can be added to the existing suite.

The mirror image – Clonezilla

Similarly, Clonezilla has a singular purpose, as a free software equivalent to the better known Norton Ghost application which can be used for disaster recovery, disk cloning and disk imaging.

Zoom Clonezilla's opening splash screen.
Clonezilla allows a user to clone the data stored on a media device, or a partition on that device, and save the image to another device, locally or across the network. The stored image can be restored as needed by use of Clonezilla server, which can be used to simultaneously replicate the original image on any number of networked computers. Like Norton Ghost, Clonezilla can be used to restore a disk drive to an earlier configuration.

Clonezilla is Debian-based and can be booted from a CD, DVD or USB flash drive.

And the others

Super Grub Disk (see also: Super Grub2 Disk and Rescatux) is exactly what is says on the packet, a live CD for rescuing, editing and restoring your boot partition, or for booting into lost partitions. Its most used, and for that reason, most useful application, is one that makes a regular appearance on Linux user forums: where a re-installation of Windows has resulted in the user being unable to boot into a Linux partition. But it can also be used to remedy a wide range of boot problems.

SystemRescueCD boasts a similar range of facilities to Parted Magic, and more besides. The latest release is based on Gentoo and features the Linux kernel, and such utilities as Partimage which saves / restores partitions to an image file, and FSArchiver which can be used to save and restore a file system to a compressed archive.

Other Linux rescue disks include Billix, which is "a multi-boot USB key based Linux distribution, designed to be a toolkit for system administrators." Billix allows you to boot or install a number of Linux distributions, and has been described as "a Sysadmin's Swiss Army Knife", although all of the Linux distributions it can boot are now several versions old.

Inquisitor is "a software suite used for hardware diagnostics, stress testing, certification and benchmarking", developed in Russia. Inquisitor is available for download from SourceForge.

Recovery Is Possible, or RIPLinux, is a Slackware-based live CD that offers a similar set of options to SystemRescueCD, but inexplicably includes Xine "for watching movies on DVD."

A carefully chosen system rescue disk is an invaluable tool for sysadmins or users who are technically literate and want to learn. If you only have access to one computer, it's certainly prudent to familiarise yourself with at least one of the rescue systems mentioned, keeping an up-to-date copy on CD or USB as new versions appear.

For other feature articles by Richard Hillesley, please see the archive.

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