Essential Linux Tool: SystemRescueCd

SystemRescueCd is a Gentoo-based Linux distribution that specializes in repairing unbootable computer systems and recovering data after a system crash. Since it is loaded with system utilities, its main aim is to provide a handy tool to anyone that needs to perform computer admin tasks.

I already have micro distros like SliTaz and DSL that I may someday use in case of emergency. However, I needed a more powerful and more complete rescue tool. SystemRescueCd is the answer. Just recently, I got the freshly released SystemRescueCd version 1.0.3 HERE , and then loaded it for a test drive.

Running SystemRescueCd
To run SystemRescueCd, you have to burn the ISO image first to a CD ROM. You can also install it to a USB stick in case your CD drive is inaccessible or is not available.

SystemRescueCd will start off by giving you several options since it contains four main boot images such as:

* rescuecd –the default choice for 32bits systems with Framebuffer disabled; best choice;
* altker32 –an alternative kernel for 32bits systems; Boot with this kernel in case you have problems with rescuecd;
* rescue64 –the default 64 bits kernel; Use it if you want to chroot to a 64bits Linux system installed on your hard disk, or if you have to run 64 bits programs;
* altker64 –an alternative kernel for 64bits systems; Boot with this kernel in case you have problems with rescue64;

Other boot option parameters are also available for performing special tasks. Here are some of them:

* docache –with that option the system will copy all the files it needs to the RAM of your computer. Once the files are cached into memory, you can eject the disc from the drive and continue using the Live CD. It allows you to insert another disc in the drive, and the system is running faster. That option requires at least 256MB of memory;
* setkmap=xx: –usually the systems ask you which kind of keyboard you have during the boot process. If you enter this option there will be no question to answer during the boot. Replace ‘xx’ with the keyboard you have: ‘us’ for USA, ‘uk’ for British, ‘de’ for German, and so on;
* ide=nodma or all-generic-ide –use these options if there is a problem related to the hard disk, for instance if the kernel boot process hangs on a driver related to the storage;
* doxdetect or forcevesa –use these options if you cannot get the graphical environment to work when you type startx in the shell prompt;
* acpi-off / noapic / irqpool –use these options if you have any problem when the kernel boots: if it hangs on a driver or if it crashes;

Working in console mode or in graphical environment

In console mode, you can mount partitions of your disks in order to troubleshoot an installed Linux or a Windows operating system. To troubleshoot Linux, you can mount any Linux filesystem (ext2fs, ext3fs, reiserfs, reiser4, jfs, xfs). SystemRescueCd is also able to mount FAT or NTFS disk used by Windows. If you want to mount your windows disk use ntfs-3g (eg: ntfs-3g /dev/sda1 /mnt/windows). The well known vim and qemacs editors are also available if you have to edit files.

To start the graphical environment, use the “startx” command. You will then be taken to SystemRescueCd’s JWM desktop where you can work with Gparted (Partition Magic clone), Leafpad graphical editor, and Firefox web browser among others.

SystemRescueCd will also allow you to make backups over the network, download some files, work remotely using ssh and telnet, or access files that are shared on a Unix server(with NFS) or on a Windows machine (with Samba). You also have a read/write access to MS Windows NTFS partitions using Ntfs3g. In addition, there’s a Test-disk tool to check and undelete partition that supports reiserfs, ntfs, fat32, ext2/3 and many others.


SystemRescueCd 1.0.3 is an amazingly handy tool that’s essential for system administrators and IT technicians. However, it’s also very easy to use that I think even a regular Linux user can handle it. I’m so glad that I found SystemRescueCd because it has all the tools that I need to keep me from being paranoid of losing all of my essential files.