Having the right utility program can make the difference between easily completing a basic computer maintenance task and walking into a computer nightmare. In this post I’m going to discuss two such programs that I find particularly useful.
The first program is known as Unetbootin. According to the website, it “allows you to create bootable Live USB drives for Ubuntu, Fedora, and other Linux distributions without burning a CD. It runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. You can either let UNetbootin download one of the many distributions supported out-of-the-box for you, or supply your own Linux .iso file if you’ve already downloaded one or your preferred distribution isn’t on the list.” Indeed, this is a handy tool if you’re interested in trying out a different Linux distribution. However, I find it most useful for creating Live USB drives of various Linux based utilities that I use for partitioning, cloning and imaging disks. Unetbootin is in the Ubuntu and most other mainline distribution repositories. If you’re on Ubuntu a simple “sudo apt-get install unetbootin” at the command line is all that is required to install it.
PartedMagic is the swiss army knife of free disk utilities. According to the website it “employs core programs of GParted and Parted to handle partitioning tasks with ease, while featuring other useful software (e.g. Partimage, TestDisk, Truecrypt, Clonezilla, G4L, SuperGrubDisk, ddrescue, etc…) and an excellent set of info to benefit the user. An extensive collection of file system tools are also included, as Parted Magic supports the following: btrfs, ext2, ext3, ext4, fat16, fat32, hfs, hfs+, jfs, linux-swap, ntfs, reiserfs, reiser4, and xfs. Parted Magic requires at least a i586 processor and 312MB of RAM to operate or 175MB in “Live” mode.
Format internal and external hard drives.
Move, copy, create, delete, expand & shrink hard drive partitions.
Clone your hard drive, to create a full backup.
Test hard drives for impending failure.
Test memory for bad sectors.
Benchmark your computer for a performance rating.
Securely erase your entire hard drive, wiping it clean from all data.
Gives access to non-booting systems allowing you to rescue important data.
Runs from the CD, no install required.”
I’ve found the disk wipe and Ghost for Linux (G4L) disk cloning tools exceptionally helpful.
Not Just for Linux
PartedMagic can be used to perform partitioning tasks on Windows systems as well as Linux. Once you’ve booted PartedMagic on a USB drive you’re independent of Windows and able to directly modify the partitions, clone a disk and securely wipe a drive. Of course if you’re not careful you can ruin your system and lose your data so be sure to read the manual before you start!