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For System Recovery, DOS Is Still Boss

In the past year alone, I've had four near-fatal drive failures, each on a different system. To alleviate some of the pain associated with recovering from these kinds of problems, I've been working on building a self-contained, multiboot rescue CD that I can use to bring up a crippled system and perform emergency surgery.

This includes tasks such as repairing a broken partition table, cloning a failing drive to a new disk before the old one dies completely, or simply changing a corrupted file that is preventing the operating system from booting.

There are actually a number of options for building these kinds of things, depending on what you are trying to do. If you just want to fix up a Windows installation, you can use the Windows XP Recovery Console and a boot CD to bring a crippled system far enough along to do rudimentary repair work. (Fred Langa shows how to turn the recovery console into a functional command-line interface in this article. )

If you want something more than that and are willing to invest some sweat equity, you can put together a relatively full-featured Windows-based graphical repair environment by using Bart PE or one of its derivatives. (Fred talks about Bart PE in this article.)

There are also several different Linux-based recovery CD images that are useful for repairing a variety of problems. SystemRescueCD and Recovery Is Possible are two distributions that are designed for general system recovery. Most of the general purpose Linux distributions also provide a recovery image that is specifically optimized for fixing their own installations too.

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