A Linux live distro is very useful either you are a Linux user or a Windows user. They comes very handy if you screwed up your Linux system beyond normal recovery or your Windows system is infected with a nasty malware.
What is a Linux live CD distribution?
Linux live operating systems are the linux distributions which can be booted directly from a CD or USB drive without installation, without making any changes to the existing system. That's why it's called live. But CDs and DVDs are almost obsolete now, live CD is evolved to live USB, however kept it's old name.
As you don't even need to install a live OS to use it, so you can check the new operating system before installing it to the hard drive. Think about a fully featured linux desktop with you on-the-go inside a DVD disc or USB flash drive.
But the real potential of a live CD is more than the above. They're immensely useful to remove malware from a infected system, or to recover data from a crashed system.
There are many Linux live CD distribution, so which one is more feature packed or which one fulfill your need? Lets find out with these 7 special purpose Linux live distro.
Slax is a fast, small and portable Linux live USB distro, was based on Slackware. Now it's based on Debian stable.
Despite its small size, Slax provides a wide collection of pre-installed software for daily use, including a well organized GUI.
Previously Slax used a stripped down version of KDE, now runs a highly customized version of the FluxBox window manager with some pre-installed GTK+ based application.
It also can be installed on hard drive for daily use. Slax modules can be added or removed on-the-fly, so software installation during live session is easy and efficient.
It can be booted from a wide range of media like CD/DVD ROM, USB flash drive or external hard drive etc. Here's how to boot Slitaz from a PXE server.
Slax have a nice syslinux boot menu with many options like copy to RAM, act as a PXE server to boot slax on other computers on a LAN, load previously made changes etc. With the copy to RAM option, the boot media can be removed safely while the system is running entirely from RAM.
Get slax from here.
Knoppix is one of the very first linux live CDs, based on Debian, available in English and German, fast and fully featured.
It supports a lot of hardware out of the box, a lot of GPUs, Network Cards(both Ethernet and Wi-Fi) usb modems etc.
Knoppix is primarily aimed at being run from live media but it can be installed into hard drive. During live session software installation is also possible with apt-get.
Knoppix comes with LXDE desktop on top of compiz window manager by default, but knoppix desktop is not well polished. Standard Debian applications are available by default plus some more Knoppix oriented applications.
Get Knoppix from here.
RescaTux Linux Live CD
Rescatux is a Debian based special rescue cd focused on broken system rescue.
It have a noob friendly graphical Rescapp to rescue broken GNU/Linux or Windows system with few clicks and many advanced options like restore or update the GRUB bootloader, restore Windows MBR, boot reapir option, check filesystem for defects etc.
Some funny options like change or clear linux password, clear Windows password, unlock Windows user or make the user administrator etc. are also available.
Rescatux have some preinstalled tools like Gparted to manipulate harddisk partitions, a web browser, an IRC client and LXDE desktop environment with openbox window manager, so do not expect a shiny desktop.
The rescatux ISO can be booted of with CD, USB drive with syslinux or GRUB bootloader and features automatic 32bit or 64bit kernel selection for better hardware support.
Easy and powerfull Rescapp makes Rescatux a must have rescue live CD for everyone.
Get RescaTux from here.
Slitaz is an extremely lightwaight and fast live CD that runs great on old hardware.
The name SliTaz stands for "Simple Light Incredible Temporary Autonomous Zone". There are lots of useful software packed inside a just 35 MB iso image to make a full blown desktop.
Slitaz supports a wide range of hardware with bare minimal system requirement, any x86 compatible processor with 48 MB of RAM for text mode or 192 MB RAM for GUI desktop.
It boots very fast from a wide range of media like live CD, live USB, floppy disk, over PXE on a local network or can be installed on hard disk.
Very well configured Openbox window manager and Slitaz LXDE theme gives a pretty descent look and feeling.
Slitaz comes in two flavor. A stable version with hardened stability and cooking version with cutting edge software. Main drawback of Slitaz stable version that it may not run well on latest hardware.
Get Slitaz from here.
Tails live CD
If you're a computer security enthusiast, i.e. a computer hacker, most most probably you know about it.
According to Tails, it aims at preserving your privacy and anonymity, and helps you to be anonymous. Though Kali Linux can be used as a live distro, but Tails is Tails is designed to be a live linux distro for penetration testing.
It ships with many preinstalled tools for penetration testing and internet anonymity, and most notably Tor.
Tails forces all the connections to the Internet to go through the Tor network, ensuring almost negligible internet footprint.
Get Tails from here.
If you ever dealt with FTP/SFTP, then there's a very good chance that you know what is FileZilla.
So, basically CloneZilla Live is live linux distro with FileZilla and other backup utilities preinstalled.
Clonezilla is developed by the NCHC in Taiwan. It is very useful in case of hard drive crash and for full disk backup. The cloned data can be saved to another local media or remotely over SSH,to a NFS shared filesystem, or to a SAMBA share.
CloneZilla can take a full disk backup, take a partial backup or completely clone a disk and restore it back. By default CloneZilla supports a wide range of disk drives and disk partition type including windows NTFS and Mac HFS+ . If partition type is not supported it can make a exact disk image as backup.
It runs entirely from the USB/CD media and do not require HDD install. The copy to RAM option is available on the boot menu, so after booting the bootable media could be removed safely.
ClonZilla have a ncurses based interface not an impressive desktop but the interface is easy to use. Finally, If you have a little knowledge about linux command line, every functionality of CloneZilla is possible with any of the above live CD.
Get CloneZilla from here.
Finnix - Linux live distro for sysadmins
Finnix is a little known yet quite useful linux live distro for sysadmins, based on Debian.
You can mount and manipulate hard drives and partitions, monitor networks, rebuild boot records, install other operating systems, and much more with Finnix.
Finnix runs on many hardware platform, on x86, on ARM or even on PowerPC architecture. The Finnix live ISO is quite small, the x86 ISO file around 135MB.
Get Finnix from here.
Almost every Linux live CD can be used to do the required job by slightly tweaking it. But this article may help you to choose the right one for your purpose.
If you have a good set of live CD, your computing life will be a lot easier in case of emergencies. I think it's good to have at-least one live USB always ready.
Finally a bonus for live distro lovers,