Introduction: Recovering Files With Linux

About: A proud Australian nerd who loves all things physics or IT. And lasers.

Welcome, fellow spies. Particularly YOU, Agent [YOUR NAME HERE]! I am here to teach you how to make an essential tool for any computer-savvy spy. For your convenience, this message will NOT self destruct, so be sure to take care that it doesn’t fall into... enemy hands.

Many a budding spy has fallen at the first hurdle, one I, Agent He-Who-Is-Not-To-Be-Named-For-Legal-reasons will teach you to thwart those meddling anti-spies and their dog. Here is the scenario. Enemy agent X has taken an embarrassing, nay, MISSION COMPRIMISING photo of you, and stored it on their computer. They foolishly think that their new Hyper-Super-Duper-Password will prevent you from recovering, or deleting said evidence for good.

They are gravely wrong.

With a mere memory stick, or for the retro spy amongst us, a CD-ROM you can easily recover data from nearly any computer, regardless of user passwords, malfunctioning operating systems and even allow you to use computers which have had their hard drives REMOVED ENTIRELY!

This isn’t just an offensive tool either, it may be used to protect yourself from nasty enemy hackers too. Because of its innate ability to completely ignore hard drives you may use an enemy computer for INTERNET BANKING and not store a single incriminating file anywhere they may find it, or anywhere at all for that matter. They shall be none the wiser. Just a heads up, this intructable will get pretty involved, I just CANNOT tell you how to do something and not try to teach you why it works like that, or how it works like that. Personal failing I guess, but one I am defiantly OK with. Just keep your super-smarts about you and prepare... to spy.


Are you ready to begin?

(PS: This will do little or nothing for encripted files, however login passwords will be next to useless against your might. Mwahahaha!)

Step 1: You Will Need:

Remember Agent [YOUR NAME HERE], the five “P”s.

Preparation Prevents Pathetically Poor Performance!

Before you Sneak into your enemy’s office and fill their hard drive with photos of cats, you must first create the very tool I am here to teach you to make!

You will need:
• Internet connection (You are reading this after all!)
• One computer or laptop with a CD burner or DVD burner and a USB port.
• One USB with at least 256Mb of storage space. (Wow!)
• One spare hour ready and waiting to be filled with awesome.

These are very easy things to acquire. For example, I cannot even find a memory stick with less than a whole gigabyte of storage, let alone 256 megabytes! A cheap memory stick from your local electronics shop should suffice. Above you can see a picture of several memory sticks suitable for the job. However, I would recommend backing up any mission critical documents on the computer in use, because some amongst us have a “knack” with technology, best known as “the touch of death”. For this tutorial you will need to use features most wouldn’t know even existed on their computer, so when I warn you not to mess around dear spy, I mean it. The Grand Bureau of all Things Sneaky takes no responsibility for any damage you may deal to your poor computer, or anything else for that matter.

Step 2: "Operating Systems" and Puppy Linux

Some of the less technically inclined spies may wonder what exactly I mean by the term “operating system”. To answer that I will first give some examples. Microsoft’s “Windows XP”, “Windows Vista” and “Windows 7” are all well known, then there is Apple’s “OS X Snow Leopard” and “OS X Lion” for the apple fans, and the iPhone even has one, called “iOS”. An operating system is the underlying software that runs your programs and games (or apps), and lets them interface with the hardware of the computer (the bit of the operating system that does that last bit is called the “Kernel”).

It is because several operating systems exist that lets us weave the brilliance lesser spies would call magic. What you are really going to do is on the memory stick or CD-ROM (or DVD-ROM) is install your very own operating system! The OS (short for Operating System) of choice here is a thing called GNU/Linux (Colloquially known as Linux, for short). The beauty of Linux is that it is a thing called “open-source” which means anyone who knows what they are doing may get the “source code” and modify it, or make their own, and hence make their own version of the operating system! Some (relatively) well known examples are:
Debian (
Ubantu (
and Fedora (

We won’t be using these “major” versions because we will use a very special Australian Linux called “Puppy Linux” (Please no “upside-down” jokes, this Australian Super-spy has feelings!)

Step 3: Making the "Live CD"

It has taken us a while, but now it is time to actually do something! If you have read the information prior you should have a good enough working knowledge of what we will now do to not be scared by it and have some idea about what is actually going on.
I just have one primary request, please follow this intructable as you read it, it is specific for a reason, this is a tried and tested method I have used just myself many times. Once you have gone through once, and arrived at the result, THEN if you want to do something differently or try something else you will be prepared and knowledgeable. Preparation Prevents Pathetically Poor Performance!

The first step is a very easy one, download the “.iso” file for Puppy Linux here and save it to a folder either on your desktop or your documents folder or even your downloads folder if you have one.
If you have software that can burn .iso files to disks, you can skip this next step, if instead you had no idea what I just said or do know but don’t have an iso burner, then also download this and save to the same place as you saved your iso.

For some who may be wondering, why is special software needed to put this iso file on a disk? Surely it could just be dragged + dropped there? That is a fair question, the answer is that the iso file is not what we need, it is instead a very special archive, the contents of a CD saved into a single file, we need special software to “unzip” it, so to say, onto the disk.

Now, insert the disk (CD/DVD) into your burner drive and load up your new shiny freeisoburner.exe. Select the iso file, Choose a name for the disk (I recommend something like PupDisk, or PuppyLinux or suchlike). I would normally just set the burn speed to the highest setting and be done with it, but just to be sure, set it to one of the slower options. Finally set the “Drive” option to that of the drive with the disk in it and click BURN.

While you wait order yourself a drink. A vesper martini, grain vodka not potato vodka, and shaken not stirred perhaps?

Step 4: Using Bootable Media (LiveCD/USB)

Once you have created the bootable disk, you have taken the first step towards compu-spyhood. What you now have is a “Live CD” that is a disk that can boot an operating system!

But wait a minute!? Weren’t we making a USB that boots an operating system?

Indeed yes we are, but this is indeed an optional opt-out point. You now have a disk that boots Puppy Linux, and if that is all you wanted; then you may stop following the rest of the intructable and get to those spy shenanigans we both know you want to get to. You may return at any time (provided Chaos hasn’t taken over) and finish the intructable at your leisure. Whether or not you want the USB, I do recommend you do follow a little further to learn how to USE the disk first!

Please, I beg of you, if you have a computer that you use for work, or is somehow integral to your job or daily life, use a different one for this next step. At least back-up your important files to another few CDs or USBs or both. These next few steps are inherently harmless, but you will pass very close to options that could damage your computer beyond your ability to repair. I know what I am doing, so hear me when I say DON’T TWEAK SETTINGS I DON’T TELL YOU TO, EVER. *Ahem* I am overstating the risk somewhat but “Better safe than sorry” is in fact a good philosophy. Preparation Prevents Pathetically Poor Performance!

Leave your disk in your disk drive (put it back if you took it out to drool over it) and turn off your computer. But before you do I recommend you print this out or write it down or something, you won’t be coming back for the rest of the intructable.

Turned off? Good. Either you’re reading this on another computer, or on paper, if so good for you! Now I want you to turn your computer back on. As it is turning on, before any windows or mac loading screens show up there should be one perhaps with the brand of computer on it, anyway it should be the first screen you see, at the bottom of the screen it should say something like “F8: Boot options” or maybe “F2: Boot configuration”. QUICKLY hit the corresponding key. Now the reason I don’t know exactly what the specific key IS is because different computer manufacturers like to have different settings for this kind of thing, I’ve used computers where the key wanted has been, F8, F2 and F12. This is the one bit where you will have to explore. If you miss the initial “boot screen” you will need to turn your computer off, and then on again. At worst you may have to resort to trial and error (turn on computer, press F2 repeatedly, if that doesn’t get you the right screen, try again with different key) This step isn’t pretty but there isn’t any way I know around it. (I highly recommend looking at the pictures included in this step to get an understanding about what I mean)

Eventually (or if you have super-spy luck, quickly) you will end up with a screen looking like the one pictured. You will know you have the right one if it is asking about boot order preferences or a “choose boot device” like option. Now this is super easy (phew!), just choose the CD/DVD drive with your brand new disk in it and hit “enter”.


Step 5: Using Linux

For all you spy-hacker wannabes out there, Puppy Linux will bring INSTANT gratification with screens full of cryptic-looking text as it boots up. Savour it! In past versions you had to work through cryptic looking configuration screens but no more! Now when it boots up you will just get one window where you can change your country, timezones, keyboard and screen resolution settings. I recommend you just hit “ok” and leave things as is.

You should arrive on what looks very much like a common desktop, because it is a common desktop. There are two major differences you will wish to know first off of the bat, #1 folders and files open with ONE click, not two, #2 right-clicking on the desktop gives you the start menu. A welcome screen will pop up but you can ignore it for now (hit the red “X” in the top right).
Your first real lesson in Linux goes like this, plug in your memory stick. Look at the bottom left corner of the screen.

See that? All of a sudden this strangely named icon has appeared! (You use “observe”, it is super effective!) This is your link to your USB, when a device like a USB or a hard-drive is “connected” in such a way it can be used, it is said to be “mounted”. Likewise, “un-mounting” is probably best explained as Window’s equivalent of “remove device safely”. Included are some images illustrating the “mount” start menu option and how the icon changes when “mounted” verses “unmounted”.

I truly hope you aren’t feeling lost, trust me, even I felt confused by Linux first time I used it, but here is some good news, as long as you don’t try to format or delete files from the hard drive, you have free-reign to stuff about, get familiarised with Linux as a platform, because when you do you will be able to work wonders with it, and all of the ideas your read about at the start shall become reality. Have a quick explore and come back when you are ready.

Now you are going to do something very “HAX0R” indeed, you are going to format the USB, but in a way that allows for you to boot from it!

If you follow the images and following steps very closely, this should be a mega cakewalk. We may end up doing a step or two too many, but I know this will work, because I have done it myself several times.

• Bring up the “start” menu and go “System” > “GParted partition manager”.
• Choose the drive that says “sdd USB drive...”. After a moment a screen like that pictured should show.
• Select the only option “/dev/sdd1” (The number at the end may be different if you have inserted other USBs, don’t worry about this, just remove the other USBs from the computer and try again)
• Right-click on that option and select “Manage Flags” from the dropdown menu that appears.
• Select “boot”, exit that option window when done.
• If you wish to actually format the drive, right-click, choose format to (select the option that appeared on the second column of the “/dev/sdd” option and click apply up the top. Follow the prompts until complete.

Now just to actually install Puppy Linux to your new, bootable USB! Exit GParted and look to the top left of the desktop there will be an icon like a box called “install”. Click it.

• Inside the first little box segment, select the option with “Universal Installer”
• Select the “USB Flash Drive” option. When asked choose your USB.
• Chose the default install option. When asked click OK.
• IF you have left in your disk select CD when prompted, if not, put the disk in and select CD when prompted.
• Keep selecting the “default” options until you get to a textbox with a yellow background. One you get to that, just keep selecting “yes” until done!

Step 6: Testing It...

Now for possibly the easiest step here. Now that you have made your USB bootable, and loaded it with wonderful Linux goodness, you can finally test the fruits of your labor.

Turn off your computer.

Try out Puppy Linux’s shutdown options as it slowly turns itself off, taking note of the screen that asks “do you want to save this session?” This may seem strange, but it is one of Puppy’s strong points, with Windows or Macs if you play around with settings and break something really badly (without deleting anything) you need to call someone with the know-how to fix it, here you restart and don’t save your changes! Fortunately (or not) you can still write files to things like a memory stick and not need to save the session, but I find it nice to be able to undo damage so easily. Just remember to save if you do want to keep settings. It sounds obvious but I shutdown without saving twice before I remembered to save my new desktop!

Just as a note, don’t bother saving any changes if you want to use the USB and not the disk. If prompted while turning off remove your disk.

Now that your computer is off, turn it back on again. This time you fortunately know what key to press to get the boot screen, do so and look for your new USB option, if it has appeared, select it and enjoy your martini as your newest tool loads obediently like the Puppy which shares its name.

With great power comes great spying ability.

Step 7: Congratuations!

YAY! If you have read this far, you are either woefully impatient, or beautifully dilligant, either way congratulations! I hope you enjoy possessing such a useful and powerful tool, useful for both spying and helping your friends recover from nasty viruses and operating system failure. I thank you for sticking with this intructable long enough to see it though, that is if you did, did you?

And for the shortest disclaimer in recorded history, *ahem*:

Don’t be illegal, immoral and always respect the privacy of others.

Anyway, I think for a first intructable I have done a reasonably good job, if I dare say so myself. Naturally any and all critique is welcomed provided it is delivered with clarity and class rivalling Bond himself!


If you have liked what I have done here, please vote for it in the spy contest, it doesn’t take a secret agent to see what theme I am aiming for! If enough people display interest (perhaps in the form of nice comments would be... nice!) in this intructable I might even launch a few more, and help everyone unlock some of the mysteries of Linux, Puppy Linux in particular.


     00-BROWNIENERD Signing off.

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