Section 17.8. Last Resort: Data Grabs with Knoppix

17.8. Last Resort: Data Grabs with Knoppix

The "recovery CDs" that come with most new PCs don't rescue your data; they merely return your PC to its original state, wiping out all your data in the process. And many PC repair shops don't bother to fix a PC's problems; they, too, erase your hard drive and reinstall Windows from scratch.

When Windows lets you down, leaving you with a PC holding your documents, music files, and other data hostage, turn to another operating system: Linux. Specifically, Knoppix is a stripped-down version of Linux that fits on one CDand it's free. Restart your PC with the Knoppix CD in your CD drive, and your PC wakes up with a completely new operating system. Since Knoppix doesn't require a hard drive, it can often salvage files from a PC after Windows has curled up and died.

Knoppix certainly isn't for the faint at heart. But when you're desperate, your PC no longer loads Windows, and you need to salvage your files before risking a trip to the PC repair shop, follow these steps to copy your files and folders from your My Documents folder onto your USB drive (see Section 9.2).

Before you can use Knoppix, your PC must still be able to start, even if Windows XP doesn't load successfully from your hard drive.

Note: If your USB keychain drive isn't large enough to store your data, consider getting a portable USB hard drive, which holds lots more information. The same steps listed here apply to a hard drive, as well as to a tiny USB drive. Make sure the hard drive is formatted with FAT32 rather than NTFS (see Section 5.10.1), however, as Knoppix can't save data to a NTFS-formatted drive.
  1. Download and create a Knoppix CD .

    From a working PC, download Knoppix from the Web ( If the site appears in German (it's written by a German programmer), click the American/British flag to see the English version. Knoppix comes in the form of an ISO filea single file containing an image of an entire CDso you need a CD-burning program that can burn ISO files to CD (see Section 10.9).

    Tip: Feel free to create a Knoppix CD right now for future emergencies.
  2. Connect your USB drive (or portable USB hard drive) to your ailing PC .

  3. Put the Knoppix CD in the CD drive of your PC or laptop, and then restart your computer .

    If your PC doesn't start running Knoppix from the CD, you need to change the boot order in your PC's BIOS so it looks for an operating system in the CD drive (see Section 17.2.7) before looking in the hard drive.

  4. Press Enter at the "boot:" command line .

    Knoppix starts up with a bare command line, meant to offer people extra configuration options. (Type "Knoppix failsafe" at the command line, for instance, if Knoppix has trouble detecting some of your PC's hardware.) Pressing Enter starts Knoppix immediately with the default options, which work on most PCs.

    When Knoppix first appears, it leaves a browser window on the desktop with brief instructions. Close the browser, or, if your PC has a working Internet connection through a router (see Section 14.1.3), feel free to browse the Internet or send mail through a Web-based email account like Gmail (see Section A.3.3).

    Or, proceed with the rescue by closing the browser, leaving the screen much like Figure 17-9.

  5. Make your USB drive writablein other words, so you can save information to it .

    Your USB drive appears as an icon on your desktop, as shown in Figure 17-10. To let Knoppix write to it, right-click the drive icon, and then choose Actions Change read/write mode Yes.

  6. When the hard drive appears, click the Documents and Settings folder inside. Click the folder inside named after your user account, and then click the My Documents folder to see your files, as shown in Figure 17-10.

    Tip: Click the Desktop folder to see items stored on your Windows desktop.
  7. Open your USB drive and copy folders and files onto it .

    Click your USB drive icon to open it in its own window.

    Selecting items from your My Documents folder works the same way it does in Windows: click one folder to select it; hold down Ctrl to keep selecting additional items, or lasso the whole lot.

    Figure 17-10. Here, Knoppix displays the folders inside your My Documents folder, ready for you to select and copy what you need to a USB drive or portable USB hard drive. Knoppix displays thumbnails of photos on their icons, helping you salvage important pictures from your My Pictures folder.

    Drag the selected folders into your USB drive's window; from the shortcut menu, choose Copy Here. Knoppix copies the selected folders to your USB drive.

  8. Right-click your USB drive or USB hard drive and then choose Unmount from the shortcut menu .

    This "unmounting" business finalizes the writing process, preparing the drive to be removed.

  9. Shut down Knoppix .

    Click the K icon in the screen's lower-left corner, and then from the shortcut menu, choose Logout. Then choose Turn Off Computer from the End Session window. Knoppix exits the screen. It didn't fix your PC or Windows, but it rescued your data, and that's what's most important.

If you'd like to explore Knoppix further, pick up a copy of Kyle Rankin's Knoppix Hacks (O'Reilly).

The Missing Motherboard Manual

The BIOS sometimes displays the version and model of your PC's motherboard. Armed with that information, you can visit the manufacturer's Web site and download a manual that explains the motherboard's built-in parts like video, sound, and a network adapter; it's a fantastic find when you're searching for an updated driver.

Although manufacturers place those drivers on your PC when it's built, the drivers are often lost during a hard drive crash, forcing you to scramble for replacements . Until you find them, you may not be able to put your sound and network adapters back to work, or see your video at its highest resolutions .

The manual also identifies the motherboard's pins and jumpers , letting you identify the pins for USB ports, for instance, as well as for resetting the BIOS password. A manual also offers more thorough explanations of all the options listed in the BIOS, helping you change the right settings.

If your BIOS doesn't offer a clue as to the motherboard's model or version, several programs on the Internet let you probe inside your PC to uncover it (Section 1.3).

PCs: The Missing Manual
ISBN: 0596100930
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2005
Pages: 206
Authors: Andy Rathbone

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