Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
This is Leo Notenboom with news, commentary and answers to some of the many questions I get at askleo.info.
This week I want to share some of my experiences, frustrations and the final solution as I attempted to recover data from a friends hard disk.
A non-technical friend got a new computer, and I inherited the old. Naturally, it had important information on it that this friend didn't want to lose. Also as naturally, it was most likely heavily infected with viruses and spyware.
So the challenge was how to copy the hard disk contents off without actually booting the operating system and activating any malware while the machine sat on the supposedly "safe" side of my firewall.
My first thought was to boot the machine using the Knoppix live CD. Booting into Linux would absolutely prevent any malware from firing up, and once booted, there are several options for copying the entire hard disk to another location on my network.
So I changed the boot order in the BIOS, and booted from the latest Knoppix CD. It booted fine, I could examine the system's hard disk, and everything looked good. Except for the network. After a couple of reboots, the network wouldn't initialize - it would fail to get an IP address.
My next thought was to boot from a bootable Windows CD I'd created using BartPE. While I'd have to be a little more careful not to activate malware by mistake, it "should" be safe. Once again the machine booted fine, I could examine the hard disk and so on - except now the network wouldn't work at all.
It looked like a hardware failure.
I plugged into a different hub on my network. (Which also involved a few minutes building a new network cable, since I didn't happen to have any that were long enough to reach the other device.) No luck.
I added a different network card to the machine. Still no luck.
So at this point, what would you do?
Out of desperation, I warned my wife that our network was going down for a few minutes, and rebooted my router.
And then, as they say, all was well. The backup DVD is burning as I prepare this podcast.
My biggest take-away here is that networking is still hard. It's tough enough to get it to work in the first place, but random things like a router clogging up don't make things any easier.
Oh, and that BartPE and Knoppix (which I'm sure would have worked once the network issue had cleared up) are wonderful tools for geeks like me.
I'd love to hear what you think. Visit ask leo dot info, and enter 10992 in the go to article number box. Leave me a comment, I love hearing from you.
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