When attempting to recover data from old floppy disks (5.25" in this case), it may contain a lot of bad sectors and have other issues. Tools such as ddrescue make it more likely to be able to recover more data than simply copying files in DOS.

My question is, what is the ideal bootable (CD) GNU/Linux distro that can be used with a very old computer and also comes pre-installed with data recovery tools, especially tools (if any) designed for floppy disk data recovery (although a minimum should be basic console tools and ddrescue)? If having access to a system that can boot from a CD, but still has a 5.25" floppy disk drive mounted in it, then such a system could boot a lot of relatively modern media. However, a lot of distros even for 32-bit seem to require PAE. In this particular case the system is Pentium 1 based.

Simply by trial and error I could probably find a distro designed for old computers that has some basic recovery tools, but it would be very nice for myself and possibly others in a similar situation with advice or a list (not an exhaustive one) of alternatives. I assume few distros are made for old computers and for data recovery, which hopefully doesn't make this question too broad.

  • I believe you're trying distros that are too user friendly :). Well established distros: arch, debian or even knoppix shall boot without PAE. I strongly recommend knoppix for recovery, the distro aims to be used as a recovery live CD. – grochmal Jun 11 '16 at 18:00
  • Note: Pentiums are OK with Debian, but support for 386 was dropped from sarge (3.1) and for 486 from squeeze (6.0). debian.org/releases/stable/i386/ch02s01.html.en - btw, you might want to try old versions of SystemRescueCD or Clonezilla – cas Jun 12 '16 at 9:58
  • I'll just add a comment, as my suggestion doesn't conform with the title ("bootable GNU/Linux distros"): I've had amazing results with Roadkil's Unstoppable Copier. It literally saved my life once or twice. It is compatible with floppy disks. If you are able to install (or already have) a Windows 9x on said system, I think that may cut down your work. Linky: roadkil.net/program.php?ProgramID=29 (scroll at the bottom of the list). Caveat: I used only the "Win 2000 and up" version. – elder elder Jun 13 '16 at 16:52

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