SystemRescueCd – a live system that rescues data and systems

Emergency Medicine

© Lead Image © Author,

© Lead Image © Author,

Article from Issue 225/2019

The SystemRescueCd live system contains numerous tools that you can use to recover deleted files or a defective system.

The SystemRescueCd live system above all offers programs with which you can reanimate defective data carriers and recover data. It includes the Firefox browser, which can also be used to search for solutions to a problem on the Internet if the permanently installed system fails to boot. Finally, SystemRescueCd provides useful tools for everyday work, such as creating or shrinking hard disk partitions. The live system relies on standard tools such as the well-known GParted for partitioning hard disks.


As the CD in the name indicates, the SystemRescueCd fit on a CD for a long time. In version 6.0.0, however, the developers replaced the existing substructure with Arch Linux. As a result, the SystemRescueCd 6.0.2 (the latest release when this article was written), occupies almost 871MB of disk space. With a little luck, you can just about burn it onto an extra length CD (100-minute CD). But in any case, SystemRescueCd can be booted from a DVD or USB stick.

On the downside, the live system now only runs on 64-bit systems with Intel or AMD processors. If you want to save an ancient system with a 32-bit processor, you first need to remove the hard disk and, for example, connect it to another system via an external hard disk enclosure. Alternatively, you can turn to the older SystemRescueCd v5.3.2, which you can still find in the project archive [1]. Furthermore, SystemRescueCd will not start on systems where the secure boot mechanism is enabled: You first need to disable this in the BIOS or UEFI settings.

DIY Burning

To start using SystemRescueCd, go to the project website [2]. When you get there, click on Site map and then Download in the page's left margin; in the table that appears, then click on the file name next to Download link. Burn the resulting ISO image onto an extra-long CD or DVD using an appropriate program. The developers recommend K3b, Brasero, Xfburn, or cdrecord.

If you want to boot the live system from a USB stick, you only have to write the file with the extension .iso to an empty USB stick. The SystemRescueCd developers recommend the dd command-line tool for Linux.

In Listing 1, replace systemrescuecd-6.0.2.iso with the file name of the downloaded ISO image and /dev/sdc with the device name of the USB stick. Caution: dd overwrites all the data on the target medium. Make sure that of= is followed by the USB stick's device name. If in doubt, you can use lsblk to list all data carriers. Further assistance for this process can be found on the project's website [3].

Listing 1

Writing SystemRescueCD to a USB Stick

$dd if=systemrescuecd-6.0.2.iso of=/dev/sdc; sync

Alternatively, you can order a USB stick with preinstalled SystemRescueCd from various retailers, such as OSDisc [4].


As soon as you boot a system from the prepared start medium, the menu in Figure 1 appears. Pressing the Enter key enables the first menu item and boots the live system directly. If you select Boot SystemRescueCd and copy system to RAM, SystemRescueCd first copies the complete boot media to the main memory and then starts the live system from there. After booting, you can remove the boot media, which can be advantageous for notebooks with only a few USB ports or only one DVD drive.

Figure 1: On UEFI systems, only the first option is available; you need a BIOS system to access the other options.

The other options in Figure 1 are only available if you launch the SystemRescueCd on a system with BIOS. Boot existing OS lets you start a system already installed on the computer. This is handy if you accidentally forgot the DVD with SystemRescueCd in the drive or the bootloader does not work. Run Memtest86+ (RAM test) starts the program of the same name, which checks the main memory for defects.

You should always run the tool if you suddenly notice strange system behavior while working on your system or if Linux starts to swap data to the hard disk extremely frequently. Older versions of SystemRescueCd had some additional tools in the menu, which had to be removed with version 6.0.0. Reboot and Power Off let you restart or shut down.

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