According to the FSF's free software definition,
free software gives us the "freedom to redistribute copies so you can
help your neighbor". Rescuing your neighbor from their computer
problems is another good way of using free software. In this article we
look at several distributions that might help you rescue a system for
yourself or your neighbors.
Parted Magic 4
Purposely or by accident, Parted
Magic happens to have a similar name as one of the best known
proprietary disk partitioning tools. Parted Magic fits on a small, 73M, CD.
One could even use that old, small USB stick you have lying around.
The default boot option copies the system to RAM, allowing optical
devices to be used if necessary. If the system booting Parted Magic has
between 128 and 512 MB of RAM, the creator suggests booting from removable
media. The "Live with low RAM settings" option applies to the computers
with less RAM than previously mentioned, so the system starts only TWM and
Gparted by default. The rest of the boot options mainly relate to
the graphical setup in cases where the system has an old/exotic graphical
subsystem, usable only with Xvesa. Detailed explanations of all boot
options are available by pressing F1.
Parted Magic 4 uses LXDE by default. The system starts without automatic
network setup, so the connection needs to be initiated by the user. The
"start network" GUI does this job, offering a wizard like setup for wired
and wireless connections. Gparted is available from the desktop, but the
full arsenal of PM's tools is visible in "System tools" menu section.
Besides Gparted 0.4.4, with full common GNU/Linux and FAT/NTFS
filesystem (including EXT4) support, other items in the System tools menu
make Parted Magic a serious contender for the data rescue and recovery
swiss army knife title. Partition and disk cloning are made possible with
G4L and Partition Image; data synchronization is taken care of by Grsync
(rsync is available from the shell, of course); and ISO editing by is done
by ISO Master. The Secure Erase capability of ATA drives is exploited by
Erase disk tool. Testdisk and Photorec, particularly useful recovery
tools, are also part of Parted Magic.
Parted Magic also finds room for Firefox, Xchat, as well as Gftp and
Lftp, which are especially useful for FTPS connections.
SystemRescueCD is aptly
named. Rescuing the system with this distribution is not as user friendly
as PM, but considering the target audience, a GUI is not that big an
Booting SystemRescueCD is relatively simple since it doesn't offer
predefined options. The system will boot to a shell, with support for the
common GNU/Linux filesystems, including EXT4 and BRTFS, and FAT/NTFS. The
welcome message gives starting pointers about the available shell tools,
network setup interface for wired and wireless connections and X server
startup. After the "wizard" X config tool enables the X server (Xvesa is
available as na option - "startx" might work too), JWM starts.
SystemRescueCD offers basic filesystem tools together with Gparted,
Partimage and Testdisk. In addition to the recovery tools, SRCD provides
Firefox and Dillo browsers, Xfburn, Xarchiver, Geany editor, Epdfviewer,
Gvim and other general purpose applications. Several looks and searches
didn't reveal any hidden graphical file manager, so Midnight commander is
the only solution in this context.
Parted Magic and SystemRescueCD are intended to be multipurpose
solutions, but Clonezilla live is made
with only one purpose: to make Clonezilla available on a live system.
Beside Clonezilla live, Clonezilla SE is recommended as a solution for
massive deployment, which, according to official website "can clone many
(40 plus!) computers simultaneously". Since we don't have 40 machines at
one place to test it, this article is focused on Clonezilla Live.
In general, Clonezilla live allows the user to clone partition(s) or
entire disks, and store images locally or to another machine through the
network, using SSH, Samba, or NFS. The list of supported filesystems
contains ext2, ext3, reiserfs, xfs, jfs, NTFS, FAT, and HFS+, with EXT4 in
a testing distribution branch. Clonezilla provides it's functionality
through ncurses based dialogs in a wizard style. The only problem which
occured during a routine disk-to-image clone test was the unavailability of
any option for
going backward in the process. The only option in
situations like that is to quit and start over again.
Is Possible LinuX closes this round of recovery and restore
distributions. According to our testing experience, it's quite a nice
According to the boot options, RIPLinuX should be able to start an X
server automatically, but that option failed for some reason during the
test. Startx solved the problem though, and made the Fluxbox desktop
The main part of the RIPLinuX graphical interface is the rich Fluxbox
menu which makes all of the distribution's capabilities available to the
user. The menu is organized in a way that links to documentation about the
specific applications that are available right next to them, with a note
about its online or offline nature. The choice of rescue and recovery
tools which are shipped with RIPLinux is very similar to Parted Magic, with
an addition of the Erase disk tool.
It seems that RIPLinuX developers managed to reach the absolute limit of
its 92MB image, with plenty of general purpose applications included in the
system. Beside Firefox 3.5b4, three text editors, two image viewers, GUI
file managers and FTP clients, even Xine and XMMS found their way into
RIPLinuX live. Even Gaim is included in case anyone wants use instant
messaging from RIPLinuX.
Can there be only one?
With the exception of Clonezilla, which is strictly focused on
disk/partition cloning, the rest of distributions share the same purpose.
Based on their showing during the tests, Parted Magic and RIPLinuX offered
almost the same functionality, with a different look and feel.
SystemRescueCD seems to lack the tools the other two have, which puts it
Given that the user is unlikely to watch videos during rescue and
recovery, the choice between Parted Magic and RIPLinuX is strictly
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