Using Live CDs to help repair/diagnose a PC

When I work on a Windows machine, I usually end up coming across a missing/corrupt driver. On Windows it is next to impossible to figure out what kind of hardware is in your computer without having the driver installed. You could google for a device id, but you’re going to get a lot of wrong answers.

A better solution is using a live CD. Any recent one will work; the tools you’re using will work regardless.

lspci – List all PCI Devices

01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: nVidia Corporation GeForce 8400M GS (rev a1)
03:01.0 FireWire (IEEE 1394): Ricoh Co Ltd R5C832 IEEE 1394 Controller (rev 05)
03:01.1 Generic system peripheral [0805]: Ricoh Co Ltd R5C822 SD/SDIO/MMC/MS/MSPro Host Adapter (rev 22)
03:01.2 System peripheral: Ricoh Co Ltd R5C843 MMC Host Controller (rev 12)
03:01.3 System peripheral: Ricoh Co Ltd R5C592 Memory Stick Bus Host Adapter (rev 12)
03:01.4 System peripheral: Ricoh Co Ltd xD-Picture Card Controller (rev 12)
09:00.0 Ethernet controller: Broadcom Corporation NetLink BCM5906M Fast Ethernet PCI Express (rev 02)
0c:00.0 Network controller: Intel Corporation PRO/Wireless 3945ABG Network Connection (rev 02)

Want to know the model of your network card, even if Linux doesn’t support it? No quite sure what kind of nvidia card you have? Done.

You might say, “Well sure, that’s nifty. But what about USB devices?”

lsusb – List USB Devices

Bus 004 Device 002: ID 046d:c50e Logitech, Inc. MX-1000 Cordless Mouse Receiver

dmesg – Outputs nifty stuff about your computer

From hard drives, to being able to see if the machine detected a new USB device to what wireless cards were detected dmesg offers a ton of information. I suggest using grep and more; my dmesg is 541 lines long, and it wouldn’t be surprising for yours to be more.

It it also a great place to find error messages (failling hardware generally shows up here).

[    7.616000] sd 2:0:0:0: [sda] 156301488 512-byte hardware sectors (80026 MB)

[   16.076000] iwl3945: Tunable channels: 11 802.11bg, 13 802.11a channels

Want to see how much memory is actually being detected? (Windows and many BIOS’s round these numbers)

cat /proc/meminfo

Want to know a bunch of information about the CPU in the machine? Then cpuinfo is for you.

cat /proc/cpuinfo

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