Using an Ubuntu Live DVD to rescue files from a virus-addled WinXP laptop

Two weeks ago, I talked about how I planned to use Ubuntu to rescue friends’ data from a virii-overrun Windows XP laptop on its last legs and move it over to their new Windows 7 Pro laptop (just before my bow at TechGoesWrong).  On Thursday, I put the plan into execution. For those of you ever called upon to help friends, co-workers or clients out with such a problem, here’s how it went:

I managed to get the Dell Inspiron 9400 to boot from the Ubuntu  10.10 Live DVD on the second attempt (the DVD reader is apparently on its last legs). However, the WiFi wasn’t recognized, so we had to plug in Ethernet.  Another challenge: the Live DVD doesn’t include Samba as part of its installed services, so there was no way to mount a shared folder on the Windows machine.  And the volume of files (about 7 gigabytes) defied a USB transfer.

So, I turned on Windows 7’s built-in IIS installation and turned it into an FTP server.  To do that, I had to:

  • Go into Windows’ control panel, to the “add/remove programs”, and then into the Windows features checkbox, and enable IIS Manager and FTP server;
  • Configure a folder (which I called “quarantine”) as an FTP server share;
  • Go back to the laptop running the Ubuntu Live disc, and use the Nautilus file manager to connect over FTP;
  • Drag/drop, and wait.
  • Run a virus scan on the transferred files.

It took a few hours for the files to transfer.  In this case, I was just moving over Outlook Express (!) mail, and the contents of the user’s desktop. Once everything was moved and we did an initial virus scan, we imported the mailboxes into Windows Live Mail without a hiccup.

Next, I tried installing Ubuntu onto the old system to make it usable as a desktop. Unfortunately, Ubuntu 10.10’s install crashed on the system, likely because of the DVD reader (or the fact that it’s a 6-year old Dell Centrino laptop). So I decided to go for a less taxing version of the OS, and burned a Kubuntu 10.04 LTS CD.   Not surprisingly, that went without a hitch —  Kubuntu 10.04 even recognized the WiFi hardware. And the KDE desktop is actually more Windows-like, so it’ll be less disorienting for the users.

In the meantime, I also introduced my friends to OpenOffice, which will save them a few hundred dollars in software licenses for their small business. The next step: My friends want to be able to use the laptop to drive a webcam that can publish images of their store to their website.



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