Recovering Windows files or reformatting disks using Linux

Requires: Two floppies or one CD (perferably a small one).

As you may know, I use Linux.  I have a small CD which I can boot off of to get into it, and you can even emulate one using QEMU for Windows.  But don't you know you can do some Windows file rescue with it?  Let's do some setup.

If you got some floppies around: Grab Slackware's base.i bootdisk and rescue.dsk rootdisk.  If you have SCSI drives (including Serial ATA drives), you may want to get a scsi.i bootdisk instead.  Grab a copy of RAWrite too, because they're full disk images, and you need to lay 'em down like tracks on a CD.  RAWrite will help you with it.  If there's an XP or NT version there, grab it -- it should be the GUI version.  When you're done, boot with the bootdisk and when prompted, swap it with the rootdisk.  You'll be in "root."

If you rather have a mini CD: Grab a copy of Damn Small Linux. It's a small Linux distro that runs entirely off of the CD.  Slap it on the CD as a raw image (consult your documentation of your CD burner) and boot it.  The CD should go straight into a graphical display.  Right-click on the desktop and look for "Root Shell".  It'll get you where you need to go.

Now with setup done, let's continue with a few things you can do.

Repartion your hard drives: There's two tools you can use -- fdisk and cfdisk.  I'd use cfdisk, it's a bit more user friendly.  From there, you can fully repartition drives, and use all the physical partition entries up before having to use logical entries.  Most folk will have their first IDE drive as /dev/hda -- SCSI and SATA drives /dev/sda.  The next one will be hdb/sdb, third hdc/sdc....

You can also use cfdisk to make one partition that can't be accessed in Windows freed up for Windows to reformat.

Recover files: The CD lets you upload various files to any file locker you may have online, or even to another HD you may have installed.  All you would need to do is mount the hard drive into a directory and get access to it.  Bring up cfdisk, and look for all the partions.  The device names should be there for you to jot down.  You'll need them for when you go in and "mount" them into a directory.  I usually choose a folder inside /mnt, and just in case, mkdir /mnt/nt to create a "nt" folder.  Then, if Windows is in the first partition, mount /dev/hda /mnt/nt.

Strike up Firefox and upload.  Can you FTP instead?  Do it (just not on KeenSpace here). Got a CD burner?  Damn Small Linux has some CD burner software to do it. 

Now, Linux cannot write to an NT partition.  If you have a disk formatted to VFAT or FAT32, you can mount that and write to it.