Ever wondered what a Live CD was? Up until a few years ago i didn’t know myself what one was. It wasn’t until i started to poke around a few web sites that i started to see what these Live CD’s could do. For most of my computer years like the rest of the population i have been stuck behind a Windows machine and i never really looked into what Linux / Live CD’s could do. So when i started to download some of the FREE live CD’s i was blown away.

The very fact one CD could contain most of the programs you would ever need and have its own Operating System was what fascinated me the most. So i downloaded a few of the Live CD’s out there to give them a test run. I downloaded Suse and MEPIS live CD and a Knoppix Live CD and also PCLinuxOS Live CD and over time have tried each.

I’m by no means a hard core Linux user so i wasn’t sure what i would end up with once i fired one of these CD’s up. The great thing is what you need to fire one of these Live CD’s up. Not all that long ago i had a CPU go bad on me and i had to send it back while it was gone i was going nuts. It then dawned on me that i had a old celeron 633 mhz cpu and mother board kicking around. The motherboard it had sound and all that and had about 320 megs of ram. So i started to think of where some of my old stuff was and soon enough i had enough parts as in the board the cpu the ram and a cd drive and a power supply. I put all this stuff on my desk and do note i didn’t have a hard drive and then i had to use a screw driver to touch two pins on the motherboard to turn it on.

So i had a Linux Live CD in the cd rom drive and when i gave the motherboard some juice the system come alive. I was a bit concerned if the live CD would even run on this type of slow cpu and whether or not i had a enough ram. The whole reason for doing this by the way was so i could watch TV on my tv tuner that was in my other computer that had the cpu removed and sent back for replacement. So anyway the computer fired up and i could here the cd drive spinning up. Next thing i know i see the penguin on my screen and i sit there and watch as the CD detects nearly everything in my machine on the first go.

After a minute or so , may have been longer then that i was sitting there looking at the KDE desktop for the Live CD this is the desktop that was on this Live CD. For those that don’t understand this in Linux or in these live CD’s you can specify what desktop you want to use. The two basic ones are KDE and GNOME. I use KDE since to me it looks better. One stunning thing to a Live CD or even Linux is the power you have in terms of system configuration. You can run KDE as your desktop or choose several other ones that will remind you of the MS Dos days lol. The whole idea here is you have choices and basicly you pick what you want to use based on your computer specs.

Back to the live CD here i had the thing all booted up and was truly stunned. I was only expecting a few applications to be on there and the thing was loaded. Every thing from media players to word processors to programming languages to graphic applications. It even had tv tuner software and so i fired that up knowing my tv tuner was plugged into the motherboard. After going through the tuner setup and detecting all the tv channels i had there i was watching tv. A couple times i would look at the mother board sitting there next to the power supply and the cd rom drive on top of that and just laughed thinking with so little gear i had a fully functional computer working.

I took a mp3 cd i had dropped that in and all my songs played like they should. I was unsure if the Live CD would detect the audio chipset on my motherboard but it did that just fine. All the Live CD”s i tried could have also been installed on a hard drive. Depending on the Live CD you use this can be real easy to do and it gets rid of the whole boot CD thing and that makes stuff run a lot faster then it would be if running off the cd rom drive.

The whole idea of a lot of these live CD’s is to take old junky machines and make them useful again. And to this extent its amazing what you can do with a old computer that you thought would be classed as a bookend.. Don’t get me wrong running these live CD’s on modern day hardware is done as well and these Live CD’s run really nice , but things run pretty smooth even on old hardware.

The cool factors to these Live CD’s are the fact they for the most part don’t install anything at all to your hard drive and they don’t screw with your installed software such as Windows. What this allows you to do is to be able to TEST these Live CD’s and not have to worry about screwing your main operating system up. Another bonus to these things is the fact they can read FAT32 and also NTFS partitions. So a good example would be if for some reason windows stop working and the only thing you have is a live CD at the very least you could read your data and then get it backed up onto another hard drive.

Live CD”S also can be used to connect your machine to the Internet providing you have the hardware. The Live CD’s i have seen have all come with full Internet suites like Mozilla or Firefox and all the Live CD’s i have played have had several e-mail clients to choose from. The Live CD’s also have messenger clients and all that should you want to connect up to msn or yahoo.

There is one catch to all this and that is some Live CD’s have different support built into them. So for example one live CD might not work with your sound card where as another live CD may. Them folks are the breaks when it comes to Linux / Live CD’s. Hopefully one day the hardware manufacturers will pull their heads out there ass’s and start to include open source drivers with their hardware they sell. Until that happens we will have half ass support when it comes to hardware and drivers. The Live CD’s are free so you can test as many as you like and see what suits your hardware you have. One more thing i should mention here is that you have to have your cd rom set to be the bootable device when you turn your computer on. You can do that by accessing your BIOS and changing the boot order. If you don’t know what that means then get a friend or a tech guy to do it for you.

So to wrap this up these Live CD’s that are out there now a days are worth checking out.. Download a few and run them and see what you like about them. If you really find one you like install it to a hard drive and mess around with it and learn some stuff about Linux.

Here is a good site to goto for Linux / Live CD’s..


Once there type Live CD into the search bar. While your using the search type in mepis or knoppix or pclinuxos There are tons of Linux live cd’s out there so have fun with that.