A cost effective alternative to KVM over IP switches

Whether in a co-location centre or at a remote site, looking after a server when you aren’t there in person can be a challenge, particularly if you are conscientious and update your servers regularly – updating a Windows server almost always requires reboot, updating a Linux server will require reboot if the kernel has been updated. What happens if the server doesn’t come up after said reboot? This happens more often than might be expected, so I find it desirable to have a way of accessing the server even if the operating system isn’t available. Traditionally this would be provided by a KVM over IP switch, which redirects Keyboard, Video and Mouse input/output via a web server integrated into a box. KVM over IP switches are expensive (the cheapest one I could find at time of print was €250 and doesn’t work well with mice IMO). However, there is an alternative which is elegant and affordable …

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Recover a failing Windows hard disk using only free software and your Windows CD.

Scenario.

You have a Windows machine which will not boot up but you can still access the disk, even though it makes various clunking and thunking noises.

Solution.

Install a new hard disk and Partedmagicos on a USB stick or CD and run either “ntfsclone” (the easiest and quickest option) or “dd_rescue”. If the NTFS structure is damaged and you cannot repair it fully using the windows recovery console the latter option is the one you want. Of course you may have Windows installed on a FAT32 partition in which case use dd_rescue.

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