Sometimes our operating system stops working properly or merely starts up. And then we find ourselves in the awkward dilemma between take the PC to a store for repair (with subsequent cost) or try to reinstall risking losing files and settings.
In this situation it is very useful to go to the ‘rescue discs’, modified versions of other operating systems (frequently Windows or Linux) that we can start from a CD / DVD or from a USB storage device, to carry out the necessary operations in our usual system to recover it, or to save our files more (or the entire partition, go) before reinstalling.
All of them can be recorded from an ISO file, and will not require any installation on our hard drive. There is a wide catalog of this kind of discs, but we have selected four of the most outstanding so that you have a reference:
Hiren’s BootCD PE
The original Hiren’s BootCD was an emergency boot disk based on Linux, DOS, and Windows XP., which defined itself as “a first aid kit for your computer”. However, after several years without updating (since 2012), several of his fans decided to develop his successor: Hiren’s BootCD PE.
There are three main differences between the two discs:
The latter is based ‘only’ on Windows 10 PE (Preinstallation Environment), a stripped down version of Microsoft’s OS used as a rescue disk base.
It has a smaller but more select catalog of tools than its predecessor (all free or free, no pirated software).
Supports UEFI boot.
Hiren’s BootCD PE has applications aimed at the MBR repair (main boot record) of our system, to the data recovery (previously deleted), defragmentation, hard drive partitioning, formatting and diagnostics, disk browsers compatible with various file systems, diagnostic and remote access tools, ‘serial’ and password retrievers, as well as basic file management applications (compression, text editors, PDF viewing, etc.).
Besides, also it will facilitate the task of recovering a damaged Windows system and unable to boot normally, avoiding having to reinstall it.
Rescatux is a live distribution based on Debian GNU / Linux, which offers tools to repair installations of both Linux and Windows systems.
Thus, it offers us options for modify and repair the boot (UEFI, GRUB) of our owner operating system, troubleshoot access (changing passwords, giving specific permissions to certain users, etc.) and also includes advanced tools como Gpart, Gparted, Testdisk o Photorec.
Its great strength is the assistant that it includes, baptized with the name of ‘Rescapp’, which will provide us with access to all the restoration options, guiding us through the process even if we are not users with great knowledge. For a few years Rescapp has also been a standalone app available in the Debian repositories and compatible distributions.
One of the peculiarities of Rescapp is that, in addition to serving as a launcher for third-party tools, allows us to access the chat channel and the official forum from the app itself of the same to ask for help from other users, and even makes it easier for us to share information about the configuration of our equipment or about our record of actions.
It is recommended that the computer in which we use Rescatux has a minimum of 1 GB of RAM memory so as not to have problems during its use. Another relevant aspect of its requirements is that while it can work on any architecture in BIOS mode, its creators only guarantee its operation on x64 systems in UEFI mode.
Clonezilla is another Debian-based distribution, focused in this case on a very specific mission: the fast cloning of disks or partitions, having arisen as free alternative to the famous Norton Ghost. It even has a massive cloning system through a network, with which we can clone the same disk in a large number of computers simultaneously.
This distribution is compatible with a large number of file systems used by many operating systems: LVM2 and FS ext2, ext3, ext4, reiserfs, xfs, jfs, FAT, NTFS, HFS +, UFS, minix and VMFS.
The downside is that its interface ncurses is primarily text-based, and in menu-based wizards, which can ‘throw back’ users accustomed to the usual graphical window environments.
Kaspersky Rescue Disk
The company Kaspersky, creator of the homonymous antivirus, allows us to download and create a rescue disk called ‘Kaspersky Rescue Disk’, which we can use both in graphic mode and in text mode to scan our system for malware and try to remove it.
Its scanning system has several options to define what or where we will be looking for malicious software in our main operating system. What’s more, not limited exclusively to antivirus functions, and allows us to explore our hard drive so that we can copy or delete files, as well as a browser (Firefox) to search for technical information.