Mass storage and data management with Parted Magic

Disk Aid

© Lead Image © Amy Walters, 123RF.com

© Lead Image © Amy Walters, 123RF.com

Article from Issue 157/2013
Author(s):

It's really annoying when a disk suddenly dies on you or a typo in a command deletes important data. The free Parted Magic Live distro offers help.

The explosion of hard disk capacities in recent years, coupled with the ever-improving multimedia capabilities of conventional computer systems, has led to massive growth in volumes of data in many households. But HD video, lossless audio files, and elaborate games force you pay more attention to backing up your data. Many naive users invest in expensive, commercial software, often accompanied by a yearly subscription fee, to create backups of their mass storage.

However, the Parted Magic Live distribution [1] gives you a permanent answer to backup problems. Parted Magic bills itself as "a complete hard disk management solution." The Live system comes with a collection of useful tools for partitioning, backup, disk cloning, data rescue, and more. Although the maintainer has recently asked for a contribution to help finance the GPL-licensed distribution, the price of just under US$ 5 is something anyone can afford.

Variants

Parted Magic offers several start options in the GRUB boot manager. If you use the operating system on an older machine with only 512MB of RAM, choose the Start option Live with default settings 32 (for 32-bit machines) or Live with default settings 64 (for 64-bit PCs).

For more recent computer systems with more memory, opt for the Default settings 32 or Default settings 64 instead. This loads the entire operating system into memory and thereby accelerates the process enormously. If you see a black screen after startup, you can use Alternate graphical server 32 or Alternate graphical server 64, which load a VESA-compliant graphics driver and invoke a shell.

Parted Magic then boots into a somewhat antique-looking graphical system with a number of program icons on the desktop. The most important icons are Disk Cloning, Partition Editor, Erase Disk, Disk Health and – if you use Windows – Virus Scanner (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Parted Magic displays links to important programs as icons on the desktop.

System Check

To help you troubleshoot hardware defects in case of inexplicable system behavior, Parted Magic offers a range of tools for checking system integrity. Pressing the System Profiler icon first shows you the details of the detected hardware. The program also supports benchmarking against specific routines (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Detailed insights into the machine hardware courtesy of the System Profiler.

For example, if you suspect – specifically for mobile computers – that overheating of individual components is causing problems, you can use Psensor to read the temperature sensors installed in the computer. If this still doesn't help you track down the root cause, you might want to check the disk integrity. To do this, press Disk Health, which in turn launches GSmartControl [2] (Figure  3). You can then view the faults in the Error Log tab. The Perform Tests tab lets you launch a storage medium test, if in doubt.

Figure 3: GSmartControl quickly tracks down any disk problems.

In the System Tools menu, you will also find a System Stability Tester (systester) entry, which runs intensive system checks to identify hardware shortcomings. Finally, you can check your audio hardware using Multimedia | Test Audio.

Software Problems

Parted Magic also offers many routines for identifying software problems. The tools that catch the eye here are primarily for Windows systems. For example, the System Tools menu contains two programs: PCLoginNow and Change Windows Password. They allow you not only to change Windows passwords but also reset them if needed. The typical Windows tools include antivirus programs that will rid your Windows computer of malware. Clicking on Virus Scanner launches the ClamAV virus scanner [3]. When you first start the software, it automatically downloads the latest virus patterns.

Another Windows-specific issue is weaknesses of the NTFS filesystem [4], which tends to become inconsistent in cases of high utilization. To avoid loss of data, the program allows you to Resize NTFS with Bad Sectors in the System Tools menu – even if bad sectors are found. For Linux, Parted Magic offers the Grub Doctor tool, which allows you to repair a broken GRUB2 configuration.

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