Boot Repair Disk

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© Lead Image © Spacejunkie, photocase.com

© Lead Image © Spacejunkie, photocase.com

Article from Issue 200/2017
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Sometimes things go wrong when you are installing an operating system on a hard disk drive or SSD. A boot repair disk gets your boot configuration back on its feet, quickly.

The boot process for computers has become massively more complicated in recent years. Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) has largely replaced the traditional BIOS, while increasingly large storage devices require new types of partitioning.

The configuration options of bootloaders such as GRUB 2 have thus been massively extended; even minor changes to the system can cause start-up problems. In the worst case, you will be left sitting in front of a black screen with a flashing cursor without the operating system having booted.

In this situation Boot Repair Disk provides invaluable assistance: The operating system, based on the lean Lubuntu 14.04 LTS with the LXDE desktop takes care of damaged boot configurations even in heterogeneous environments, repairing them automatically at the push of a button.

Ready, Steady, Boot

Boot Repair Disk [1] is available as an ISO image of approximately 642MB for 64-bit architectures, or as 627MB 32-bit variant. Thus, you can burn both versions of the operating system on a CD, which you can use even on legacy hardware without a DVD drive. Alternatively, you can use UNetbootin [2] to transfer the image to a USB stick for use on computers without an optical drive. In our lab, we were unable to write a bootable image to a stick with the on-board tools.

After setting up the image, boot the computer from the corresponding media, and choose the bottom entry in the boot manager Boot Repair Disk session. Within a short time, the system starts and immediately launches the Boot Repair software on a very plain LXDE desktop before proceeding with a system scan. Then the program's control dialog appears (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The Boot Repair window is totally uncluttered.

Under normal circumstances, you will just want to press the large button labeled Recommended repair to initiate an automatic reconstruction of damaged system components such as the master boot record (MBR) and boot manager. If you first need accurate data on the mass storage media, but do not want to make any modifications for the time being, then click instead on Create a BootInfo summary. In addition, the window also offers advanced configuration options, which you can access by clicking on Advanced options.

The window then expands to include a configuration dialog for the GRUB bootloader (Figure 2), which groups various options in tab groups and grays any inaccessible tabs. In the first tab Main options, you can only configure a few basic settings for GRUB 2; you will see that the tool has already activated the option for reinstalling the bootloader. In addition, you can trigger an automated filesystem repair; Boot Repair gives you the option of reanimating a damaged MBR if necessary.

Figure 2: Numerous startup parameters can be set in the advanced options.

As an important additional option, the dialog offers the possibility to make a backup of the partition table, boot sector, and all logfiles so that you can reconstruct the old data later in case of problems. If you enable the Restore MBR option, Boot Repair grays the following tabs GRUB location and GRUB options and instead enables the MBR options dialog. In the second tab from the left, labeled GRUB location, you can define where GRUB 2 is installed. You can either select all mass storage media or a specific disk, which you choose in a selection box. You can also specify which operating system the bootloader should load as the default.

In the following tab, GRUB options, you can choose to completely delete an existing GRUB 2 installation before setting up GRUB again, or enable GRUB Legacy as the default boot manager. You can also configure various parameters that GRUB 2 needs to correctly start specific operating systems. If the configurations offered here do not meet your needs, you can press Edit GRUB configuration file to tune the configuration file manually to your liking.

In the Other options tab, you can define various options for logging the individual tasks. If you also have a Windows version on your computer, you can enable the Repair Windows boot files option to repair a Microsoft system that fails to launch. Then enable the respective options by clicking on the Apply button. If you want to repair a mass storage device's MBR, enable the Restore MBR option in the Main options tab. Boot Repair then grays the settings dialogs for GRUB and instead enables the MBR options tab. You can then select which tool to use to reconstruct the MBR. If there are multiple partitions on the mass storage device, you can also define here which of them to boot by default (Figure  3).

Figure 3: Boot Repair also includes repair options for the MBR.

BootInfo

The Boot Repair Disk also comes with another program dubbed BootInfo, which helps you with problems at system startup time. It can be found in the System Tools menu of the operating system and provides a clear-cut window where you can define with a single mouse click whether the tool should store the boot log online or locally.

After another click on Local report (text file), the tool scans the computer and then opens the Leafpad text editor, which opens up with the scan log. You will not only find detailed information on the system configuration here, but – at the end of the log – also some hints on how the repair tool will approach the task. You can thus determine what modifications the tool will make on the computer (Figure 4).

Figure 4: BootInfo impresses with extensive testing and logging options.

The tool lists all the partition data of all mass media (including USB flash drives) connected to the computer system, as well as the GRUB configuration files. In addition to the repair program's log, you will also find the complete output from the parted -l, parted -lm, mount, df -Th, and fdisk -l commands in the text file. You are thus given a good overview of the mass storage device configuration.

OS Uninstaller

The third in-house developed tool included with Boot Repair Disk is found in the System Tools menu: OS Uninstaller. This helps you delete an operating system without leaving any remains on your mass storage device and without painstaking manual work.

After launching, the application first lists all the existing operating systems after a brief scan of the system (Figure 5). Select the operating system that you want to delete from this list and press Apply. After a safety prompt, the uninstaller first deletes the operating system, then reconfigures the boot manager, and finally displays the results (Figure 6).

Figure 5: A mouse click selects the operating system that you want to delete.
Figure 6: We successfully deleted Ubuntu in just a couple of minutes.

After a reboot, you will find the remaining operating systems in the GRUB startup menu, where the OS Uninstaller adds entries for the Plop Boot Manager and Smart Boot Manager. They do not have a function without additional configuration, so you can safely remove them from the Start menu.

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