Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Another Linux Recovery Success Story

Being the Computer Guy, I have a multitude of friends and relatives asking me for everything from advice to extricating them from sticky situations.

This one fellow just doesn't seem to get why his Windows machines slow down, lock up, and acquire virii.  By way of explanation, he has an AOL account.  If he asks me why, I start to explain and watch the poor guy's eyes glaze over.  It generally takes longer to explain it than to just fix it.

I have done a number of repairs for him, each time attempting to impart some helpful knowledge along the way.  And don't get me wrong; I am unnecessarily handsomely rewarded.  Last time I got a chilled case of Yoo Hoo and chocolate.

This time it was the home Windows box.  He tried everything to fix it but it kept asking to replace important Windows files.  When the system starts asking you for files in the SYSTEM32 folder, you're pretty much toast (without some slightly advanced tools, knowledge, or a geeky friend).

My task was to retrieve data from a few of the Windows profiles.  Apparently the machine was of no consequence after.  I might suggest installing linux if he doesn't have other plans.  At least it won't slow down and attract viruses.

So we already know the machine won't boot.  I pulled out my trusty USB stick that boots Ubuntu to perform the task at hand.  And, in typical fashion, I discovered that since this was an old machine, it was not able to boot a USB device.  It's been that kind of day lately.

Then it was time to locate a Windows rescue disc.  This would be the easiest task in the world for normal folks but I apparently fear being struck by lightning if I ever put something back where it belongs.  Plus I'm quite lazy and the discs might be a room or more away.

I did manage to locate an old version of Xubuntu on a CD so I figured I'd try booting that one.  I booted in live cd mode, which runs linux in memory and doesn't touch the hard drive.  This is very useful for trying out different flavors of linux without messing up your current operating system.  It's also useful for rescue efforts like this one.

I mounted the hard drive and tried to burn a cd but the drive was whacked.  The day was getting even more lovely.  So I picked up a large USB stick and transferred the files from the Window profiles on the hard drive.

I burned the files to a cd on my laptop and BOOM - DONE.

What have we learned?

  1. Always look annoyed when someone asks you to fix their computer
  2. linux live cd's and bootable USB drives get the job done
  3. Live by Windows, die by Windows (or Mac)

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