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I have a pentium II (that's right, pentium II) with a scant 200MB of ram. This was a high-end workstation in it's day. The machine currently runs dos on a raid array, and I need to pull some data from it. I figure my best chance at this is to use a linux live cd to copy the data to one of our active directory network shares (there is a network card in the machine).

Unfortunately, my linux skills are abysmal, so I'm not sure where to get started:

  • Where should I look to find a linux cd that will run well on such an old system
  • Since I'm likely gonna need to be command-line only, what do I need to do to configure the network card and mount the network share via the command line?
  • Bonus points: exact syntax needed to copy and convert the entire volume for use in VMware server 2.0, but really just copying all the data should be enough.
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Might want to try out Slitaz as well. – Sathya Dec 24 '10 at 2:45
@Blood - I'm asking for cli rather than gui, and I'm asking for help using the system after I get it. – Joel Coehoorn Dec 24 '10 at 14:11
+1 Only real Super Users ask such interesting questions ;-) – Ivo Flipse Dec 24 '10 at 20:35
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Puppy Linux is pretty much the go-to Linux for this. It itself is only 100 MB.

Damn Small Linux is only 50MB but its developer abandoned the project for Tiny Core which is only 10MB.

Puppy is the easiest, though.

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  • Puppy is popular for old low-end machines, though for just copying files off one of the Debian live CDs might be better if you are happy with a command-line interface (the rescue one from here for instance). Most well-stocked rescue CDs should do, just don't get one with any fancy GUI options or the machine will not be powerful enough.

  • If using one of the Debian CD you may need to install samba support with aptitude update && aptitude install smbfs

  • If your network card is supported (chances are it will be) and there is a correctly setup DHCP service somewhere on your network, configuring network access should be automatic.

  • Assuming your RAID adaptor is recognised (i.e the drivers are present in the kernel or it shows itself as if it were a standard PATA controller) you should see evidence of it in the /dev filesystem. Do an ls -d /dev/[sh]d*. Hope to see two drives (probably sda and sdb) once of which will be the CD drive and the other the harddrive/array. The drive's partitions should be enumerated so you'll see at least sda1 if the drive/array is sda.

  • If the drives are visible in /dev you may be in luck. Create a couple of places to mount things with mkdir /mnt/drv and mkdir /mnt/net.

  • try mounting with mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/drv - if that doesn't error run ls /mnt/drv to see if there are the files you expect to find there. If there are, mount your network share with mount -tcifs //111.222.333.444/sharename /mnt/net -ousername=<user>,password=<pass> (where 111.222.333.444 is the address of the machine you wanr to move the data to, the rest should be even more obvious). If that doesn't error run ls /mnt/net to make sure you can see the contents of the right share.

  • If all the above has worked, run cp -a /mnt/drv/* /mnt/net/ and wait for it to finish. Add the -v option (cp -av /mnt/drv/* /mnt/net/) if you want a little more progress information while the copy happens. If the live CD you are using includes rsync, you could use that too to get more progress information with a command like rsync /mnt/drv/* /mnt/net/ -a --progress

  • Unmount the local filesystem with umount /mnt/drv (the n should me missing from the u(n)mount command, that isn't a typo). If there were other partitions, mount them in turn (i.e. mount /dev/sda2 /mnt/drv for sda2) and repeat the copy operation.

  • Finally umount /mnt/net and halt.

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fyi: smbfs is obsolete; cifs is the replacement and comes with Linux itself. – grawity Dec 23 '10 at 22:13
@grawity: Good catch. Sorry about that, I've edited the braino in the mount command. The package name is right for Debian though, both the cifs and older smbfs support is in the smbfs package ( – David Spillett Dec 24 '10 at 9:39

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