Use Knoppix Live CD to Rescure a Hard Drive

Stolen from:http://lifehacker.com/software/disk-recovery/geek-to-live--rescue-files-with-a-boot-cd-192982.php
Another good one at http://lifehacker.com/software/geek-to-live/partition-and-image-your-hard-drive-with-the-system-rescue-cd-292972.php

Knoppix Live Cd Screen Dump Segment

Original Created by Gina Trapani -- www.ginatrapani.org & lifehacker.com

Few moments in computing are as heartbreaking as when you turn on your trusty PC only to receive that bone-chilling message: "Boot sector corrupt.Config.sys missing. Disk cannot be read."
In other words, "You're screwed."

Or are you? Just because your computer can't boot up Windows from your hard drive doesn't mean you can't boot it up with another operating system on another disk just long enough to rescue your important files. Today we'll use the completely free Knoppix Linux Live disk to safely move your files on a failing hard drive to a healthy USB drive - no Windows required.

Note: There are lots of bootable CDs and DVDs that you can use to get your computer running long enough to grab your files, like the previously-mentioned BartPE, which requires your original Windows installation disk to build. If you want a familiar Windows solution and you have your original installation disks, that's the way to go. This is for the slackers who, ahem, lost or don't have access to the original Windows disks, and who aren't afraid of a different-looking operating system.

Let's get started turning your machine into a Linux-CD booted powerhouse.

0. Take stock.

For the latest version (as of writing, 5.01) of Knoppix to run, you need:

I have a USB mouse and keyboard which I wasn't sure would work - but they did. If you're also all USB, it's a good idea to have PS/2 option around just in case.

1. Prepare your Knoppix disk.

You have two options for getting the Knoppix bootable disk: download and burn one yourself, or order one by mail.

DIYer's in a hurry can download an .iso file and burn it to their own CD or DVD. (This, naturally, requires a CD or DVD burner and burning software.) If you go this route, make sure you choose the most recent .iso file available (currently KNOPPIX_V5.0.1CD-2006-06-01-EN.iso). If you're going the DVD route, be sure to get your file from the "knoppixdvd" folder on the download server.

Alternately, if you've got time (or no friend with an available burner), order up a Knoppix CD via mail for anywhere from a $1.50 to $5.00 at one of these vendors.

2. Set your computer to boot from the CD or DVD drive.

Here's where things get as tricky as they're gonna get. When your computer starts up, it boots itself on disks in a particular order (usually the floppy A: drive, then the C: drive) as set in the computer's base configuration (called the BIOS). To boot from CD or DVD, you have to edit this disk order to make your computer go to the CD or DVD first. How you do so will differ from machine to machine. On my Dell, when it first starts up, there's a message to "Press F2 to enter setup." That's what you want.

So first, insert the Knoppix CD into your CD/DVD drive. Shut down your computer. Disconnect any peripherals you don't need to grab your files (like a printer, wifi adapter, remote control IR device, anything unnecessary.) DO connect any drive you want to move your files TO (like a USB drive.)

Then start up your computer and watch carefully for the message on how to enter your BIOS settings (like my F2 message) and hit the right key. Once you get yourself in there, there will be a Boot Sequence option. Go into it, and select the CD drive as the first bootable option, as shown below.

Typical BIOS screen with Boot Order Dialog Box

WARNING: One false move inside your BIOS and your computer can get really screwed up. Be careful, and only edit the boot sequence settings.

Once it's set to boot from CD first, save and quit the BIOS.

3. Boot up from CD.

Now that the CD's in the drive and your computer's set to boot from it, you're golden. Once you restart, you should hear the Knoppix disk spinning right away. Your computer will bypass your crippled hard drive and begin booting up Linux. First thing, Knoppix will ask you to confirm you want to indeed boot into Linux by hitting Enter.

Knoppix Start Up Screen

Once you do, the Linux penguin will appear above textual progress messages as Knoppix gets itself started. It will take some time to detect your devices, so just let the anticipation overcome you. Eventually, you'll get to the full-on Knoppix desktop, which looks like this. (Click to enlarge.)

Note: I had to reboot three times before I got Knoppix running. The first time the boot sequence got stuck in the "Auto-detecting devices" process. Once it was over 20 minutes, I shut down, unplugged everything except my monitor, keyboard, mouse and USB drive, and tried again. The second time I got to the desktop wallpaper but was told I didn't have enough memory for graphics mode (which I most certainly do) and was kicked into text mode (the command line) instead. I didn't want that. The third try was a charm - startup happened in a minute and a half with a full on KDE desktop shown above with all my disk drive icons and the task bar.

Moral of the story: if bootup ain't going well, try try again.

4. Rescue your data.

For those of you with no Linux experience, Knoppix will look odd and scary, but it isn't. You'll notice hard drive icons on your desktop. Click on one to browse its contents: your Windows files. To copy your important documents, open up your USB drive (click on the icon) and simply drag and drop them onto it.

When I first tried this, I got a message saying I didn't have permission to write files onto the USB drive. (Click to enlarge what that looked like.)

If you have that problem, change the permissions by right-clicking on the USB drive, and choosing "Change read/write mode" as shown. (Click to enlarge.)

Then, you can simply drag and drop files from your hard drive to your USB drive, as shown. (Click to enlarge.)

Once you've got all your files onto your USB drive, you can shut down, reset your boot order to where it should be, and go rebuild your PC knowing that you've got your data safe and sound.

A Linux boot CD or DVD like Knoppix is also an awesome way for the curious to muck around in Linux without having to install it. Just pop in the CD, reset your boot order and go.