Most Linux distros provide an ISO file you can use to create a Live CD/USB. With this Linux Live CD, you can boot to the OS from your USB drive, test it out and install it if you like. However, do you know that the Live CD can also be used to rescue your PC when it is down? In fact, it is such a useful tool that I would advise you to keep a copy on hand at all times.
Great Live Distributions
If you want a full desktop environment in “Live” form, Ubuntu and Mint are two of our favorite choices. Both are full-featured, come with an excellent selection of software, and run great on relatively modern PCs.
Still, there’s a different subgroup of distributions explicitly designed to be light on resources and run optimally from removable media. They are intended to be used this way, or even installed and used from a flash drive. Puppy Linux offers one of the eldest and most respected versions of this formula. Knoppix is an equally good alternative worth looking into.
Whichever distribution you choose, you can burn it on a DVD or, if it’s small enough, a CD. The modern take, though, is using flash media, which is also much quicker to access and writable.
How to Access Your Data with a Live CD
Did you find yourself locked outside your Windows installation and want to access your files? Here’s how you can do it with Ubuntu’s Live CD.
1. Boot up your PC using the Ubuntu Live CD. On the boot screen (see the screenshot below), select “Try Ubuntu.”
2. Wait a while, and soon you’ll see Ubuntu’s default desktop on your screen. Double-click on the “ubuntu” icon in the Desktop to open the OS’s file manager. Alternatively, you can click on the folder icon on Ubuntu’s dock. It’s the bar you can see on the left of your screen.
3. Choose “Other Locations” from the list of places on the left pane of the file manager, and you’ll see all the storage devices connected to your PC on the right. This includes the disks you were using with Windows.
4. To access their contents, click on them. Linux has gotten pretty good at detecting and accessing Windows filesystems, so you probably won’t have a problem accessing your files this way.
5. Since this is a full Linux installation, you can also open them to check them out, with apps like LibreOffice Writer. You can even install more apps, like VLC, if Ubuntu’s default software collection doesn’t support some file formats you want to check. Don’t worry – this installation will happen strictly in the virtual environment without affecting your actual storage.
You can freely copy and paste your files just like you would in Windows Explorer or any other file manager. Is your Windows installation destroyed and you only want to save your files? Copy them through the file manager from the hard disk with Windows and paste them on a different one. You can then shut down Ubuntu’s live environment and proceed to the (re-) installation of an OS on your primary HDD.
To exit the virtual environment, click on the power button on the screen’s top-right corner. Choose Power Off/Log Out. Choose Power Off … from the options that appear when the menu expands. Then, Power Off once more or wait half a minute for the countdown to finish.
Remember to remove your live media before rebooting your PC.
No Need for Reinstalling?
Backing up your files after a system failure is the smartest choice, but you may not have to take such a drastic next step as a full OS reinstallation.
- If your HDD’s contents are inaccessible, it may be because of a corrupted file system or some other fixable problem. Thankfully, there are tools with which you can deal with something like that. There are multiple ways you can fix a corrupted MBR, or you can recover deleted files from NTFS partitions.
- If your old installation was out of space, you can clone it to a larger HDD with a tool like Clonezilla. You can then resize the cloned partitions on the new HDD (if you didn’t choose to do that automatically) with GParted.
Which is your favorite Live media? What are you using it for? Have you ever used one as a full desktop replacement? Tell us in the comments section below.