Knoppix 3.6 saved the day

For reasons not clear to me, our Windows XP machine at home died recently. It just wouldn’t boot, after trying safe mode, last known good, etc.

This machine is an HP Pavilion 513x, around 6 years old. We had a bunch of children’s game software on it, along with other stuff, such as picture and video files, and my better half’s data and documents. Some were backed up, some were not. So it is important to retrieve important files out of it before a total rebuild.

Enter Knoppix. I got a Knoppix 3.6 CD from a Linux class I attended more than 2 years ago. I was able to boot the machine using it. The salvage process then started.

I first used a CD burning software called K3b that came with my copy of Knoppix. It worked pretty well with all my picture and video files. K3b was less successful when I started copying pdf, Word documents, and some other data files. These files spread around under My Documents folder, desktop, and various other folders. I suspect irregular or long file and folder names may have played a role here.

Next I mounted my usb drive. Here is what I did:

su
mount -t vfat /dev/sda1 /mnt/sda1

I then can copy files to my usb drive. When it was full, I did:

umount /mnt/sda1

and then freed up the usb content to other machine and start over. One thing to note is Knoppix can detect the usb drive and will mount it for you, but you cannot write to it when it is mounted automatically for you. You will have to use the command above to make it writable.

This operation does require some functional knowledge of *nix environment. By the way, I also tried Ubuntu 6.0 for file salvage, but Knoppix worked much better.

Lesson learned: back things up periodically, especially when they are important.

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