There can be a variety of reasons for computers to fail which stem from either hardware or software failure. Most hardware can be easily replaced without too much difficulty by a trained technician. The area where issues can not be so easily fixed is a failing hard drive. that is where every bit of data and programs are stored. You will need a technician or software to be able to recover any data that was not damaged during failure. Even if all your hardware is fine, you may have software problems from losing your password to having your systems infected with malware. Malware is usually attributed to Microsoft based systems. Linux, BSD and OS/X are less likely to be subject to those situations.

What I would like to do is suggest some freedom software tools to help you in these situations. At this time they are all freely downloadable from the net. I suggest that you get them now while your system is working fine. Because unless you have a spare system, you will be out of luck. The four products are Trinity Rescue kit, Clonezilla, System rescue, Tinycore linux and Partedmagic. Really any decent live linux distribution cd should be able to help you once you have your fee wet at doing it.

Trinity Rescue Kit aka TRK:
Trinity Rescue Kit or TRK is a free live Linux distribution that aims specifically at recovery and repair operations on Windows machines, but is equally usable for Linux recovery issues. It is possible to boot TRK in three different ways:
-as a bootable CD which you can burn yourself from a downloadable isofile
-from a USB stick/disk (optionally also a fixed disk), installable from Windows or from the bootable TRK cd
-from network over PXE, which requires some modifications on your local network (version 3.2). Version 3.3 has the ability to act as a network bootserver itself, without any modifications to your local network.
TRK is a complete commandline based distribution, apart from a few tools like qtparted, links, partition image and midnight commander

Clonezilla:
What is Clonezilla?
You’re probably familiar with the popular proprietary commercial package Norton Ghost®, and its OpenSource counterpart, Partition Image. The problem with these software packages is that it takes a lot of time to massively clone systems to many computers. You’ve probably also heard of Symantec’s solution to this problem, Symantec Ghost Corporate Edition® with multicasting. Well, now there is an OpenSource clone system (OCS) solution called Clonezilla with unicasting and multicasting!
Clonezilla, based on DRBL, Partition Image, ntfsclone, partclone, and udpcast, allows you to do bare metal backup and recovery. Two types of Clonezilla are available, Clonezilla live and Clonezilla SE (server edition). Clonezilla live is suitable for single machine backup and restore. While Clonezilla SE is for massive deployment, it can clone many (40 plus!) computers simultaneously. Clonezilla saves and restores only used blocks in the harddisk. This increases the clone efficiency. At the NCHC’s Classroom C, Clonezilla SE was used to clone 41 computers simultaneously. It took only about 10 minutes to clone a 5.6 GBytes system image to all 41 computers via multicasting!
Features of Clonezilla:
* Free (GPL) Software.
* Filesystem supported: ext2, ext3, ext4, reiserfs, xfs, jfs of GNU/Linux, FAT, NTFS of MS Windows, and HFS+ of Mac OS. Therefore you can clone GNU/Linux, MS windows and Intel-based Mac OS, no matter it’s 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x86-64) OS. For these file systems, only used blocks in partition are saved and restored. For unsupported file system, sector-to-sector copy is done by dd in Clonezilla.
* LVM2 (LVM version 1 is not) under GNU/Linux is supported.
* Multicast is supported in Clonezilla SE, which is suitable for massively clone. You can also remotely use it to save or restore a bunch of computers if PXE and Wake-on-LAN are supported in your clients.
* Based on Partimage, ntfsclone, partclone, and dd to clone partition. However, clonezilla, containing some other programs, can save and restore not only partitions, but also a whole disk.
* By using another free software drbl-winroll, which is also developed by us, the hostname, group, and SID of cloned MS windows machine can be automatically changed.

System rescue:
Description: SystemRescueCd is a Linux system rescue disk available as a bootable CD-ROM or USB stick for administrating or repairing your system and data after a crash. It aims to provide an easy way to carry out admin tasks on your computer, such as creating and editing the partitions of the hard disk. It comes with a lot of linux software such as system tools (parted, partimage, fstools, …) and basic tools (editors, midnight commander, network tools). It requires no installation since you just have to boot on the CD-ROM. It can be used to perform admin tasks on both linux servers, linux desktops or windows boxes. The kernel supports most of the important file systems (ext2/ext3/ext4, reiserfs, reiser4, btrfs, xfs, jfs, vfat, ntfs, iso9660), as well as network filesystems (samba and nfs)

Tinycore Linux
Tiny Core Linux is a very small (10 MB) minimal Linux Desktop. It is based on Linux 2.6 kernel, Busybox, Tiny X, Fltk, and Jwm. The core runs entirely in ram and boots very quickly.
It is not a complete desktop nor is all hardware completely supported. It represents only the core needed to boot into a very minimal X desktop typically with wired internet access.
The user has complete control over which applications and/or additional hardware to have supported, be it for a desktop, a netbook, an appliance, or server, selectable by the user by installing additional applications from online repositories, or easily compiling most anything you desire using tools provided.

Partedmagic:
The Parted Magic OS employs core programs of GParted and Parted to handle partitioning tasks with ease, while featuring other useful programs (e.g. Partition Image, TestDisk, fdisk, sfdisk, dd, and ddrescue) and an excellent set of documentation to benefit the user. An extensive collection of fileystem tools are also included, as Parted Magic supports the following: ext2, ext3, ext4, fat16, fat32, hfs, hfs+, jfs, linux-swap, ntfs, reiserfs, reiser4, and xfs. Parted Magic requires at least a i586 processor and 256MB of RAM to operate or 128MB in “Live” mode.

I have used all these tools to save many Microsoft Windows based boxes in my years as a tech. My brother who teaches computing at a local college includes teaching his students the use of these tools in his tech repair classes. Including my brother, many people have been known to start using linux because of these tools. I always have these tools and a spare hard drive with me when I go to clients. You will be their hero.
Good computing!

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