Hard Disk Crash Recovery Using Bootable SystemRescueCd (Free)

By Angsuman Chakraborty, Gaea News Network
Monday, September 3, 2007

SystemRescueCd is a Linux system on a bootable CD-ROM for repairing your system and recovering your data after a crash. It aims to provide an easy way to carry out admin tasks on your computer, such as creating and editing the partitions of the hard disk. It contains lots of system utilities (GParted, parted, partimage, Sfdisk, fstools, …[details below]) and basic tools (editors, file managers like midnight commander, network tools … [details below]). It is very easy to use: just boot the CDROM. The kernel supports most of the important file systems (ext2/ext3, reiserfs, reiser4, xfs, jfs, vfat, ntfs, iso9660), as well as network filesystems (samba and nfs).

Partition Managers & File System Tools


GParted is a graphical partition tool which you can use to to see a chart of your hard disk, create, format, delete, and modify partitions. (It can be considered the best free Partition-Magic clone).


is an excellent text based partitioning tool.


sfdisk is a partition table tool. You can save and restore your partition table from/into a file. Even logical partitions are supported. For example, sfdisk -d /dev/hda > hda-backup will make a backup, and cat hda-backup | sfdisk /dev/hda will restore your partition table. It’s very useful if you make an error with parted. Don’t keep the backup on the hard disk of course! You need to copy the backup to another computer, or to any removable media.


searches for lost partitions. It supports reiserfs, ntfs, fat32, ext2/3 and many other file systems.

Each file system has its own tools. For example XFS provides xfsprogs. It allows the user to format an existing partition, to resize partitions etc. Similar tools for other file systems are also provided like reiserfsprogs for ReiserFS, Reiser4progs and xfsprogs for XFS, jfsprogs for JFS, e2fsprogs for ext2/ext3, ntfsprogs for NTFS, dosfstools for FAT/VFAT etc.

NTFS-3g allows mounting NTFS partitions with full Read and Write support.


saves/restores partitions of your hard disk into an image file. If you have a problem with your hard disk (virus, crash, error), you can restore it without having to reinstall the OS. (Norton Ghost / DriveImage clone)

Boot Loaders


are the most common bootloaders used with Linux. You can restore your bootloader from this SystemRescueCd. For example, if Windows removed GRUB, you can run grub from this CD, and reinstall this bootloader.

Logical Volume Manager

EVMS (Enterprise Volume Management System) is a powerful logical volume manager. EVMS provides a single, unified system for handling all of your storage management tasks. EVMS recognizes all of the disks on your system and allows for a variety of partitioning schemes. Software-RAID and logical volume groups can be managed in EVMS. Filesystems can be created and checked, and are automatically updated when changes are made to the underlying volumes. With EVMS, there is no longer a need for several individual utilities for performing each of these tasks.

Archiving tools

tar, gzip, bzip2 are provided for Unix / Linux users. This CD also contains zip / unzip, rar / unrar, unace etc. for Windows users. It allows users to backup/restore their data from this bootable disc. Dar (Disk Archiver) is included too, which is like tar but it’s a lot more powerful.


During a system rescue, you may need to edit system files. Several editors like nano (a lightweight editor), vim (VI Improved), qemacs (emacs clone), Leafpad, elvis and joe are provided.

File Manager

Midnight Commander

MidnightCommander (mc) is a NortonCommander clone for Linux. It is very easy to use, and allows you to browse all the files on your hard disk. You can copy, rename, delete, move, search and edit files.

CD/DVD burning tools

You can use the cdrecord packages, that comes with mkisofs. It is the linux standard CD burning command from console. Mkisofs allows you to create an ISO image file to use with cdrecord. Cdw is a text based front end to make cdrecord and mkisofs easier to use. Udftools are provided for packet writing. Now, you can also use dvd+rwtools. This package makes DVD burning possible.

Network File Tools

You can use ftp, ssh (client and server), ppp(connect to the internet), lynx (console web browser). LUFS (Linux Userland File System), NFS and Samba among others.

Network administration tools

Many standard network administration tools are provided: DNS-tools (such as nslookup), nmap (network exploration), netcat (network piping tool).

Security tools

Chkrootkit searches for a rootkit installed on your system (rootkit is a package installed by a hacker that allows them to hack it).

Several wiping tools (such as shred and wipe) ensure that files are really erased from your hard disk.


Clam-AntiVirus is a free high quality Anti-Virus software. You can update the definitions from the CD-ROM, and scan your system for a virus.

Web browsers

Two lightweight web browsers are provided: lynx and links . They are useful if you need to have a look at a detailed documentation during your usage of the system. In FrameBuffer mode, the links web browser can be used as a graphical browser that shows images, and it has a nice GUI.

Scripting Languages

Python-2.4 is a very powerful and easy to use powerful high-level object oriented programming language which can be used to script your tasks and automation.

Perl is a powerful and free scripting language. Many administration scripts, and many programs are written in perl.

System Boot boot images

The CD comes with many floppy disk images. These can be used as real boot floppy disks. Here is a list of the provided disks:
* FreeDos allows running DOS programs without MS-DOS
* MemTest+ test the physical memory, and tells if it is damaged or not
* Gag (Graphical Boot Manager) an easy to use Boot manager (such as LILO)
* Ranish Partition Manager a bootable partition editor
* Aida a powerful hardware enumeration/diagnostic/discovery tool (as sandra)

You can make customized versions of the CD. For example, you can add your own scripts, to make an automatic restoration of the system. It’s also possible to burn a customized DVD, with SystemRescueCd and 4.2 GB for your data / backup etc.

All the programs are free and under open source licenses. The CD comes with GPL, so most likely all the underlying software are under the same license too.


You can download System Rescue CD here.

Parting thoughts…

I would advise that you burn and keep a copy of the CD in a secure place after testing it. Make sure you actually try it out and at least browse through some of the important documentation and not actually wait for the D-day.


Surendra Rathaur
September 18, 2007: 1:08 am

The boot up sequence gets stuck during “imap” configuration and hangs.

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