Technological Grail Quest and some reviews too.

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I am building a Windows XP and Linux USB drive kit that I can use to rescue systems from catastrophic collapse. The goal here is to have some USB "thumb" drives that I can boot into so I can repair the host system. I think that only XP and some flavor of Linux (most likely Knoppix) will be necessary to load all the various tools to the drives so that I can repair all but Macintosh computers. Okay, I am working on drives for Mac's and for other systems (i.e. BlackBerry, iPhone, Palm, etc.) but those are for another article, so on with the business.

First I am building a basic install on a secure USB drive of Windows XP. This will require a 8GB thumb drive with two partitions. One partition will be a 4GB partition to hold the XP install and related tools, and a 1.5GB partition to hold critical data from the host (like internet settings and the like). This will also include the install files, so that once I get into the host system if I have to I can install a copy of Windows XP to get the host system running and do any updates and upgrades (like to Vista or 7) from the desktop or laptop I am trying to rescue. As for the list of tools, well I am working on that. One tool I know I will load is AVG virus scanner, so I can scan the volumes on the host system from the stick. Another must have is SpyBot scanner, again because it is great for what it does. I also will include a copy of AdAware, because what one misses, the other usually gets. With the new AVG suite, AdAware and Spybot S&D, that covers most of the virus and spyware issues. There is one other tool that I will definitely include, that is the awesome tool ComboFix. This handy tool helps recover most systems from almost any problem, although it can be a bit dangerous. I also will of course include CCleaner, and DeFraggler, as both of these can be useful. The idea is to get the host up and running, so a lot of the other tools that others put on their sticks are not necessary, but just for those occassions that I need it, I will include the great Ultimate Boot CD on the USB. Otherwise I can't think of anything that would be useful for the XP stick in this kit, if I do I will update this article.

Oh yea, like I said this is to get the host system up and running, but I am working on another XP stick that I will include in my kit that will be a working version of XP designed to provide a local version of XP on any PC that I use, so I can have access to networks, media and other resources on the host PC with my own log in and preferred applications. That is another article yet.

So for the Linux stick, well that is as simple as loading a "Live" version of any distro of Linux on a 4GB stick so that I can boot to Linux on any PC to rescue them from major breakdown.

Of course if it is a basic hardware issue that can't be fixed with the basic stuff listed above, well then, that is easy, replace the hardware and try again with the USB sticks. The only other thing I can think of is ensuring that I have network access to download needed drivers, and maybe installers for Adobe Flash and Adobe Reader, as well as WinRAR, and some other types of basic apps that allow me to get the host up and running and able to do the basic stuff, until I can download all the stuff from the internet that is needed through the host PC.

So that's all for now. When I have built them and tested them in the field I will provide reports, and give any updates to whatever apps I include that I haven't mentioned here.


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