- Portable OS
- System diagnostics
- Data recovery
- Video codec compatibility
- (Limited) anonymity
It’s come in handy pretty often. I’ve used, at different times, Crunchbang, Debian, and Linux Mint Debian Edition. Distribution choice doesn’t really matter, as long as the distro has extensive repos with all the software I want. Release model may matter, depending on whether you want to update rarely (Debian, Crunchbang, regular Mint) or often (LMDE). Depending on intended use case and comfort level, desktop environment may also matter. Crunchbang comes with Openbox. Debian can come with KDE, Gnome, XFCE, and LXDE. Mint comes with Cinnamon.
- memtest86+: memory testing
- gparted: hard drive partitioning
- partimage: system imaging
- gddrescue: data recovery
- fsarchiver: data archiving
- ntfsprogs: ntfs filesystem manipulation
- sfdisk: partition table modification
- testdisk (with photorec): data recovery
- gsmartcontrol: hard drive diagnostics
I didn’t want to just use the premade rescue CDs alone because I wanted to customize my package list and environment (and also to have persistence for general OS use purposes), but I did want to take advantage of their very well-curated lists of applications.
I also installed other random utilities I thought would come in handy:
- rsync: data moving
- samba-client: protocol
- ssh-client: protocol
- p7zip: archiving
- clamav: antivirus
I also install other random software on the drive to enable using it as a temporary desktop when necessary:
- vlc player: video codecs
- firefox: browser
- tor: privacy
- Simon Tatham’s portable puzzle collection
I use webapps for music, email, messaging, and other assorted tasks, but applications for that may be helpful as well.
Given that it’s persistent, live, and portable, the drive gets pretty useful pretty quickly. I’ve used my drive pretty extensively at this point, and it’s truly been a multipurpose tool for just about anything I throw at it.