A Rescue Disc can be a life saver for a Sys Admin. Packed with various diagnostic and repair tools they can do things like fix a Master Boot Record (MBR), recover a password, detect and clean a rootkit or simply allow you to salvage data by transferring it from a damaged drive to another location. Here are the best all-in-one Bootable CD/USBs that admins can use to troubleshoot and repair a Linux or Windows system – all handy additions to your toolkit.

1. Hiren Boot CD

The tagline for Hiren Boot CD reads “a first aid kit for your computer” – and that it is! Hiren Boot CD is one of the more popular Rescue CDs out there and contains a wealth of tools including defrag tools, driver tools, backup tools, anti-virus and anti-malware tools, rootkit detection tools, secure data wiping tools, and partitioning tools, amongst others.

Hiren Boot CD is available to download as an ISO for easy installation to a USB or burning to a CD.

The boot menu allows you to boot into the MiniXP environment, the Linux-based rescue environment, run a series of tools or boot directly from a specified partition.

Hiren_PreBoot

The MiniXP environment, as shown in the image below, is much like a Windows XP desktop. Everything pretty much happens from the HBCD Launcher (a standalone application with a drop down menu containing shortcuts to the packaged applications).

Hiren_MiniXPBooted

 

2. FalconFour’s Ultimate Boot CD

FalconFour’s Ultimate Boot CD is based upon the Hiren Boot CD with a customized boot menu and a whole bunch of updated tools thrown in. F4’s UBCD contains tools that provide system information, tools that recover/repair broken partitions, tools that recover data, as well as file utilities, password recovery tools, network tools, malware removal tools and much more.

F4’s UBCD is available for download as an ISO file so you can burn it to a CD or use it to create a bootable USB drive.

Similar to Hiren Boot CD, when you boot F4’s UBCD you are presented with a menu giving you the option to boot into a Linux environment, the MiniXP environment or run a series of standalone tools. As you scroll through the menu, a description of each item is given at the bottom of the screen.

F4UBCD1_PreBoot

Similar to that of Hiren Boot CD, the MiniXP environment is much like a Windows XP desktop environment, only it’s really lightweight and is pre-packed with a host of diagnostic and repair tools.

F4UBCD2_MiniXPBooted

Once the desktop has loaded up, choose from one of the available application shortcuts, launch the HBCD Menu or go to the Start menu to get going.

 

3. SystemRescueCD

SystemRescueCD is a Linux-based package for troubleshooting Linux and Windows systems. The disc contains antivirus, malware removal, and rootkit removal tools as well as tools to help manage or repair partitions, recover your data, back up your data or clone your drives. SystemRescueCD supports ext2/ext3/ext4, reiserfs, btrfs, xfs, jfs, vfat, and ntfs file systems, as well as network file systems like samba and nfs. It also comes with network troubleshooting, file editing, and bootloader restoration tools.

SystemRescueCD is available for download as an ISO file so you can burn it to a CD or use it to create a bootable USB drive.

When you boot the SystemRescueCD, the pre-boot menu gives you a multitude of options, allowing you to boot directly into the graphical environment or the command line.

SystemRescueCD1_PreBoot

In the image below, I have booted into the graphical environment and started the chkrootkit application from the Terminal window which searches for rootkits installed on the system. Other applications can be run directly from the terminal in a similar fashion, using arguments and parameters as necessary.

SystemRescueCD1_xstart

 

4. Ultimate Boot CD

Ultimate Boot CD is designed to help you troubleshoot Windows and Linux systems using a series of diagnostic and repair tools. It contains anything from data recovery and drive cloning tools to BIOS management, memory and CPU testing tools.

UBCD is downloadable in ISO format for easy installation to a USB or burning to a CD.

Note: UBCD4Win (http://www.ubcd4win.com/) is UBCD’s brother built specifically for Windows systems.

When you boot with UBCD you are presented with a DOS-based interface that you navigate depending on which system component you wish to troubleshoot.

UBCD_PreBoot

 

5. Trinity Rescue Kit

The Trinity Rescue Kit is a Linux-based Rescue CD aimed specifically at recovery and repair of Windows or Linux machines. It contains a range of tools allowing you to run AV scans, reset lost Windows passwords, backup data, recover data, clone drives, modify partitions and run rootkit detection tools.

The Trinity Rescue Kit is downloadable in ISO format for easy installation to a USB or burning to a CD.

The boot menu gives you the option to start TRK is different modes (useful if you’re having trouble loading in default mode).

Trinity_PreBoot

Once you get to the Trinity Rescue Kit ‘easy menu’, simply navigate through the list to choose which tool to execute. You can also switch to the command line if you want more flexibility and feel comfortable with Linux-based commands.

Trinity_EasyBootMenu

 

You may also wish to consider…

Boot-Repair-Disk

Boot-Repair-Disk is a Rescue CD primarily designed for repairing Linux distributions but can also be used to fix some Windows systems. It automatically launches the Boot-Repair application (a one-click repair system) which is used to repair access to operating systems; providing GRUB reinstallation, MBR restoration, file system repair and UEFI, SecureBoot, RAID, LVM, and Wubi support.

Parted Magic

Parted Magic is a Linux-based bootable disc whose main focus is helping to repair/diagnose drive specific issues. It contains a series of drive management tools such as GParted, GSmartControl, CloneZilla and ms-sys for creating/editing partitions, retrieving drive status information, cloning a drive or managing bootloaders.

Windows System Repair Disc

The Windows System Repair Disc lets you boot into the Windows Recovery Environment, giving you the option to detect and fix startup and booting issues, restore to a workable restore point (if you had System Restore enabled), restore the entire machine from a backup image, conduct a memory diagnostics test and use the command line to run utilities like chkdsk.

Additionally, Linux distributions such as PuppyLinux, Ubuntu LiveCD or Knoppix are lightweight bootable versions of Linux that contain a host of handy tools to fix common problems, recover data, transfer data, scan for viruses, manage partitions, etc.

Finally, you could also try a Rescue Disc from a popular Anti-Virus vendor , such as AVG Rescue CD, F-Secure Rescue CD, or Avira AntiVir Rescue System. Although primarily targeted to help with system’s that are infected with Malware, they are worth adding to your arsenal.

Create your own!

If you want more flexibility, why not create or customize your own bootable rescue disc?

You have a couple of options here:

1)      Create your own bootable Live USB

Using applications such as YUMI (Your Universal Multiboot Installer) or UNetBootin, you can create a multi-boot USB drive containing several operating systems, antivirus utilities, disc cloning, diagnostic tools, and more.

2)      Modify a Linux distribution

If you are using a Linux-based Rescue CD / Live CD, you can use an application like Live-Magic (for Debian-based Linux distributions) or Remastersys to create a bootable ISO of an already installed Linux OS. The idea would be to install a clean build of Linux, add or remove applications and make any customizations as necessary and then run the above mentioned applications to capture the build into an ISO.

Alternatively, instead of using an application, you can use a series of shell scripts to do the same thing. Check out http://www.linux-live.org/ for more information.

So which is your favourite? Have you come across any Rescue CDs not on this list that you’ve found useful and would like to share with the rest of the community?

And there’s more! If you’re a sys admin that’s been faced with malware infection, cracked passwords, defaced website, compromised DNS, licensing violations, stolen hardware and other issues which can cause cardiac arrest? We have what you need! Download this free e-book: First Aid Kit for Admins today!