My experience with Active@ Boot Disk

Our office recently needed to do some data recovery.  We usually don’t have to, since all saved data is supposed to go onto a network share.  But there’s always the user who thinks they know better and keeps 3 GB of data on their desktop (not just the desktop computer, but the Windows desktop).  And of course, this would also be the user whose hard disk dies.  My sense of responsibility got the better of my schadenfreude, so I started trying to retrieve the data.

Occasionally, I’ve been able to retrieve data by fiddling with things until I can temporarily access the data.  Didn’t work this time.  Enter Active@ Boot Disk.  I’ve used the demo DOS-based version of their software before, and I wasn’t particularly impressed.  But we decided to spring for the Windows-based version, and I’m glad we did.  It’s intuitive, effective, and I will consequently spend much less time recovering files in the future.  Check it out if you have a chance.

Some of the particular things that impressed me about the Win version are:

– ability to map a network drive, then save recovered files to it
– use Remote Desktop to control another computer
–  reset Windows passwords (I already have a freeware tool that does this, but it’s nice to have)
– registry editor
– web browser, mail sender, FTP and Telnet clients
– disk wipe tools
– partition tools
– imaging tool
– hex editor to read data directly from the disk (I don’t know if I’ll ever use that, but hey…)

So you get the idea – it’s got a lot to offer.  If you’re needing a preinstall environment, especially for doing file recovery, check it out.

Only thing I wish it had – ability to integrate malware scanners into the PE.  Oh well, can’t have everything.  And at $80 US, it’s a great value.

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5 Comments on “My experience with Active@ Boot Disk”

  1. mrosedale Says:

    What was the nature of the failure? Would the machine not boot or was the HD going bad? Did he accidentally delete data?

    From the list of features you include all of those are on any standard Linux boot disk. I’ve used that several times to recover data (used to use Knoppix, but now just use the Ubuntu disk). If a partition is lost or accidental deletion I’ve successfully used photorec.

    Also have you checked out BartPE before. We used that extensively at the U of I. Don’t have a need here since we have so few Windows boxes.

    Anyway I bring all that up, cause I am curious how this works differently. Does it add something worth the $80?

  2. bfpower Says:

    I’ve checked out a few different preinstall environments (including Bart’s), but it was during the beginning of my time doing IT, and they required more time spent ramping up than it was worth to me. And really, this was the first time I actually needed to get it done.

    I’m curious about the Linux options, especially in regards to mapping drives to Windows networks. This was a very useful feature to me, since it means you don’t even need a working drive in the machine. Again, when I started doing this, I had no Linux experience, though now I could probably do this without any problems.

    This one was a physically damaged disk. The machine is fine now; we just put a spare drive in it. I think the episode was a month or two ago.

  3. bfpower Says:

    One of the big advantages I think this could have is that it is a Windows environment. For the IT tech who spends little time around other paradigms, it requires no prior knowledge.

  4. mrosedale Says:

    I admit Bart isn’t the easiest thing to configure. It is really limited as well, mostly due to Windows licensing. But if you use a pure Linux install it is pretty simple.

    The standard is Knoppix I haven’t used it in years because it uses KDE and I always have Ubuntu around. But what makes this different is that they have almost all the tools needed already installed in configured. For instance NTFS support You may need to run aptitude in Ubuntu for support, not to mention that Ubuntu won’t mount those drives automatically (simple to do, but does require a bit of cli work). Knoppix does all of that automatically. So if the drive can mount than it will be mounted and ready to grab all data. If you are not that familiar with Linux this is the way to go. So long as the partition can be read and mounted you’ll not need any CLI work.

    If you have some Linux ability and especially if the CLI doesn’t scare you than I’d go with Ubuntu. The best way is to take an install of Ubuntu and create a usb bootable disk (there are gui tools for this). The CD is a nifty way to do this sort of thing, but most machines allow for USB boot, and this will give you a faster, fully customized dynamic configuration. Believe me it doesn’t get any better than this. A full OS in your pocket fit with FF shortcuts, personal document, customized scripts, Bash history and the works.

    In either case if the OS sees the partition than things are pretty straight forward. To mount a windows share (Samba, say the share is \\bfpower\backup) than you type smb://bjpower/backup. For either OS Samba is already installed and ready to go. In Ubuntu you can do that through hitting alt+F2 among other ways.

    From there it depends on the problem. You have gparted, but that won’t do as much as fdisk which is much better. And you’d need to familiarize yourself with the mount command if you use Ubuntu. Otherwise almost everything can be done through the gui with the proper tools installed.

  5. mrosedale Says:

    Oh and forgot. This tool does sound great for the Windows user who has little utility for Linux skills. If that is the case it is certainly worth it, but to the small shop without $80 to spare or the home user who is cheap (like me) than the Linux way provides all the necessary tools without any of the cost, and more customization options.

    PS. I’m curious how does this program solve permission problems?

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