How to use Live Linux to test any PC.          

Live BOOTED LINUX, (all ways from Sunday)
Has many uses, hard drives crashed , so you boot Linux to stick or CD and run like that forever? "I don't need no stink'n hard drives" Says virus free Joe?
Boot to stick or CD and test the whole PC and even test the HDD for damage (see below)
Boot to stick or CD and all things are good, but that pesky Windows on the HDD is corrupted,  now that you see Linux works just great.
Keep in mind, a bad hard drive looks (can easy) just  like a corrupted Windows.  (until you do the HDD tests below you will never learn which it is !)

What can you learn using that simple boot disk or USB flash memory stick. (I will just call it a STICK from now on,  others call it a thumb drive  or  a memory key)
You get to see the whole PC run great in fact, (sans HDD/SDD) {when I say HDD , I mean both kinds, hdd/ssd, hard disk drives)
You can even run this why with the HDD missing , for sure.
The latest best Linux is Ubuntu and the best diagnostic boot medium is Knoppix 7.6 (or older Lubuntu for old PCs)
You can see clearly that:
  • At the Linux boot , I get a 1st screen in rust color, with command prompt & if I type memtest in the line and enter, memtest86 runs, and it uses many complex patterns. (the worst pattern is always just an OS running)
  • You screen and monitor and GPU chip works, before your eyes,  see, it does work .
  • You can hear  sounds work, you can play , music files or see all those apps preloaded , just click the start button.
  • The  internet works (Ethernet wired connection  is the best way, but wifi works too, after doing setups to wifi first)
  • You can see everything work, mostly. You can even cruise the internet now,  no worries ever of getting a virus. (the newest Linux only has 1 exploit and is patched) and DVD disks do not infect !(online)
  • Last is testing the HDD.  (this is my key feature on this page, to show that you can test the HDD 2 ways, even though your OS is totally dead, or sick on that HDD )
  • If BIOS fails to see the drive , then Linux may too, for any dead drive, or it's motor is silent or it clicks madly. We are here because we think the drive is not totally dead. (can't hurt to try)

HDD testing,  on newer modern systems. (2006 and newer PC) mostly. (most are true 64bit PC processors)
The below is for modern systems not legacy, old machine have no DVD drive nor can they boot to USB large sticks, for those systems see here.
LINUX:(ways and means) USB STICK BOOT LIVE: (using  huge ISO file , 4GB in size)

KNOPPIX-v7  (we use this for 1 reason, your OS is dead or can't boot or crashes, so this boot a DVD or STICK run you PC so you  can do testing)
Burning a DVD-R disk with Knoppix 7 works too. (I always used Imgburn (free) to do that) To burn a stick we use RUFUS, (free) Google it.. it's super popular....
Do this on a good PC, not one infected or corrupted.

The best live OS USB boot  stick   is Knoppix, v7 and up. 
It is a LIVE OS, boot stick and is very popular with all service tech.'s and is FREE.
It is  full of testing apps present for HDD tests. USE this stick!
We get the ISO by downloading it, then we burn it to DVD-R (using Imgburn (free)) or flash our stick with this same ISO using RUFUS.
Mostly used for diagnosing systems.
We down load the KNOPPIX file here,  4GB ISO, FILE  DVD Image file.     or here, USA
After burning any USB stick:(or DVD)
Using the windows task bar, click the USB ICON and eject USB drive now. (if not , you  risk a corrupted USB stick) the stick is now ready.

Next we boot to Linux, new stick above,  the F9 key does that but  if dead , go in to BIOS and turn off SAFEBOOT. (or it will fail to boot, UEFI rules)

Booting to DVD is the same way... only pick DVD below.
Below is my USB 8gb + memory stick. (USB thumb drive, what ever you call it , that thing, calling it a KEY is silly, it is not a LOCK of any kind)
We insert the USB stick , in my USB3 slot (if you have one) it's faster. My stick is the fastest stick made,, no accident that. A CRUZER GLIDE(tm) 8GB+
At the bad PC Under Test (PUT) boot the stick up.

We next boot this USB stick,  using the HP F9 hot boot key, to the USB Linux stick.  (power on, hammer F9 fast 1second blows)  BAM the below pops, if missing your stick try all USB ports on PC dead.
I down arrow 1 time, for my Cruzer stick. (knoppix here) and hit ENTER key
(pitfalls above F9 failure are, BIOS set wrong, (USB legacy mode on,  Safeboot off, F9 overrides, boot order in BIOS so that is why I use F9)
When I say HDD, on my pages, I mean a harddisk drive or Solid state drive SSD. (there is no motor sounds on any SSD, except hybrids)
All modern PC can boot to all USB ports or at least 1/2 of them.(that means try them all if one fails)

The  F9 key  mine can show, up to  5 other devices,  (Hdd0, Hdd1(dvd caddy) SDmemory, USB 1, to 5, DVD/CD and more)
Ok it boots now...
It stops at the Knoppix Linux command prompt version 7 up, and I hit enter key now.
Next, see the magic of Linux booting and its beautiful, live real time logging of files as it  loaded. Love Linux I do...
It takes awhile to boot, faster sticks boot faster.  for sure, and this Cruzer stick is one of the fastest made, (yah costs more)
(warning super old PC can not boot to USB sticks at all or have no DVD drives ) the section on OLD PC's are here. below.

The desktop should look normal to any Windows users, there is a start button just like Windows.
The start ICON looks odd, but works. (near the same,  W7 like)

Click that start button , just like you do in Windows and at the top of the menu is accessories, pick that now and see DISKS, click DISKS
Do I need to say if this stick runs ok and all those features in Linux work perfectly,  that now you know you PC is ok and that your HDD is bad or your HDD  OS is corrupted.?
If you are here due to F11 hot key (BIOS) being dead, and the PC was slammed, sure it is.(was) by the BAD GUY.
I even go to the hdd0 drive drive, and see if the HDD is totally dead, or the hp-tools or HP recovery partitions are missing or mangled.
If the HDD0 was dead and not heard to spin, (listen to it?) then Linux may not see it. (depends on who made the hard drive this fact)
I   you see  HDD0  there , click on it, and there must be Windows files or folders there, but if not?, the HDD is bad or files missing or corrupted.  Next up , is the Linux DISK program "APP".
App means application computer programs.
I know folks,  that run off sticks full time, so they can not get infected, ever.(or off DVD, for sure you can not infect a DVD once good and burned) (or run a virtual OS, I use Hyper-V (W10 ) {with XP/linux,VM}

On the left side  "DISK" window click your  disk you want to test. ( easy no?)  Mine has 4 disks of 2 types, so I pick my  BOOT Drive. (SDD0 is mine or SDD_boot,  mine has solid state drives)
Now on the top right of screen is settings ICON, not a gear icon  sadly but the new fangled --- Target-stripes, it looks like a stack of cards to me. for SETTINGS. { way is  gear icon now out of vogue, silly BS)
Smart means = Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology
I will now show a Windows, 10 program , called SMART, CrystaldiskInfo running, (free) and then the Linux same thing smart screen later.)
Smart is data inside any HDD that the HDD brain, keeps updated all the time, we only need to look at said data. 
This is your smart data before your eyes, look for gross errors. like bad sectors not repairable.
Both Linux and Windows Smart show ID 5 as Reallocated sector count ( this is the repair modes)  (Windows uses Hex number base and Linux  uses Decimal)
My new drive is 0, this drive is 169 hit rate, this means 169 bad sectors found, and ran dry of spares at 140 count, and C6 (198.) = 118 is real super bad. (118 means the hdd brain can not repair 118 sectors)
From new:
All HDD grow bad sectors during it's life span (there are no true perfect HDD on Earth (lacking error corrective tech), and all HDD heal themselves, until one day it fails for the lack of spare sectors.  
This drive is now bad, runs but will fail. soon if not already !. Even minutes.Do not think it's ever good to run a sick drive like this, it is  hopeless, venture. (endless pain and wasted effort and time)
This is a Windows program, but  the Linux version looks near the same and shown later belows, but   look at ID 5 and ID C6 (189.) very very carefully.
SSD drives are totally different in this regard, and even repairs it self and more important spreads the wear. (called TRIM) As yet, never seen a bad SSD, have like 10 here , 30GB to 500, all sing like a bird.

The below is running on WINDOWS only.  Just to show bad data, Linux shows the same Data, but in decimal number base, not HEX as it is below. I added red decimal numbers below to see the simple conversions.
Try to understand that if these bad sectors land under windows, folders, windows can in fact go totally dead, or 1/2 dead.  (toss coin on total Chaos) for sure.
This data is from S.M.A.R.T (inside the drive is a brain and a data section report on all modern HDD/SDD)
this runs in windows only so if windows is dead we use the same application in LINUX
One can also move the drive to a good PC as drive 2 and scan it with Crystaldiskinfo,  and see the same errors.
Lets say your C6 looks ok, C6 is zero.  If yes, we then do more tests.  (hope happens) RAW values means YOUR HDD, all else there is SPEC, or stats.  (focus hard on UNCORRECTED !)

If C6 is bad buy a new drive,  now, and go here and load the new OS.
It may be too late Best is to backup now 
Know that most backup  software will fail hard reading the bad drive, they do sell expensive forensic software to do that....(I will not get into that here)
There are other tests to run, but some  are dangerous to run as they might wreck your data. 
I have 483,000 bad sectors uncorrected here,  (118 x 4096) 483k bytes dead. Windows will not be happy if those land on any windows files.  (it will lock up)
If those land on the F11 HP-recover partition, that too dies.  F11 will FAIL.
Do not Defrag this bad disk, or you risk losing data. (makes it worse)
If the HDD is 100% dead there will no backing up data , it is now too late.  (in most cases not all and software to get it is very expensive)
If windows (or Linux) flat refuses to copy files?  this is normal with bad HDD/SDD.
There may be free software that copies bad data files, it would have to somehow force windows to  ignore bad sectors..  Windows does not like those ever.  and PUKES.
More simply stated ,  smart says, this drive is screwed ! (above but not below)
Now we do what we did above with WINDOWS, using a LINUX LIVE BOOT.

Knoppix "DISK" (we burned a DVD-r or we burned the ISO file, to USB stick (yes it is huge file, 4.4 Giga-Bytes huge)
Program screens  (so far we are at a whopping 3 clicks to get here) settings is click 4  See how I put the clicks needed below to get here?
 One of the best DVD or boot sticks to have. (and free)
I went to Knoppix page seen above and made this STICK.
I get this page, now. (stick is my word for USB memory boot stick)

This is what Linux looks like,  similar to MS, Windows disk managment.
If the drive is missing it is dead. As seen below the HP_Tools is there.
 My HP recovery partition is missing , by my actions on purpose,(W10 loaded did that...)
I click settings to get SMART data pages. This is a SSD and has no parameter 189..  I am only demonstrating the test , with a good drive.

Knoppix LINUX smart screen. (start button + Accessories, + DISK)
Note how my spare sectors are all still virgin, (unused) ID 5. This is my SSD.  It is not HDD.
Note the drive is not overheated.
Click start self tests.
Pick short,  later pick the other 2.  (extended)
Failures are not allowed,  if yes, the drive is bad. 
This Linux Disk Self test is hidden in the SMART page below. See large red Arrow, that is the Test mode.  This is  new SSD in  2009 laptop, that now screams.

A thousand thank you's  to Mr. Klaus Knopper.

Knoppix below
, running and me just cruising the HDD (or SSD) We are doing this for 2 reasons to see if files are missing and to backup personal data.
Then next topic below is just me looking about the drive,  to see if my STUFF or Windows THINGS are all still there.  (W10 here)
I check for files not missing and folders not missing  and I check that all partitions from MS, HP_tools and HP-Recover are not missing nor my personal partitions, missing or messed up.
If you backup your data , weekly  or as you need, then all these facts stated here are obvious. 
Last is showing what Linux can do.  you can find and see if files are missing? (most folks get lost here)
In all cases if HDD is ok, reload windows fresh, using the F11 key on all HP PC's ... If F11 fails only this works now on a good HDD/SSD.

Knoppix 7.6 , the start button works, you run the disk checks easy, click "start + accessories + disk"
this screen is just browsing files on the system. Linux sees it all.

Keep in mind , LINUX sees all things, all formats that windows can not see.
It does not hide things from you in most cases,  like Windows does, so do not delete things you don't understand. (nor move them)
Some times Windows, installer tells you there is no HDD there.? but is there in Linux.
If you wanted to fresh load the OS (say Windows 7) and it setup fails, then use Linux to erase the HDD totally,  now the Windows install disk can see that new clean HDD there. (or SSD)
Windows installers do not like alien formats or unknown, or it may block you , telling you , this disk is not empty and halts. (so erase it).

This next sections is strictly for OLD PC's that have no DVD drive, (or can't boot to USB sticks) Year 2001?

Noobs (new-bee's) with  OLD hardware:  (none of this supports modern and almost new, fully enabled  UEFI grade BIOS, nor  (GPT) formatted HDD..)   This is spoon feeding , here, sorry.
PLEASE, if you PC can run a DVD disk or your PC can boot to a USB stick do not read the below, see Knoppix tests above, they are VASTLY BETTER.
LEGACY BOXES , I CALL THEM , CIRCA 2000 to 2006? or near):
The above Knoppix section is useless on relic legacy machines (PCs) it can't boot nor run, then see the below using an old CD drive.

The solution is simple use Lubuntu (L means Ubuntu Linux light) that burns to any CD-R made.  It fits on 700MB CD's no issues.
Like Microsoft (MS) the  Linux guys (developers) have moved on from legacy to today.  (they dropped support for vast old hardware , mostly older than year 2006)
The best disk is demonstrated here to find out if your XP HDD is bad, (any old PC , any old HDD) with CD-rom drive working, (yes needs to work too, many don't after 15 years.)
Warning most OLD PC's have a dead coin cell battery (CMOS) and will drive anyone mad until replaced.

There are just 3 steps here, (in the Macro)  1: make the disk on a working PC,  then 2:  boot the disk and 3: last run DISK UTILITY.  (easy no? just  3 steps)
I will now detail those tiny steps. (in the Micro) This  ISO is frozen at  April  23, 2012 (last one ever) get it while still there, keep it. hint hint.... (noobs, ISO files are raw images of a CD (or DVD).
  1. Find a good PC with a good CD burner (CD-R media blank, even Walmart(tm) sells media in the puter department near Camera's)
  2. Get this ISO file from Lubuntu. 12.04 (no newer allowed!), pick the first one at the top of the screen. intel X86 (means legacy boxes)
  3. Get Imgburn (free)   click write image to disk mode,  then click browse icon top center, find ISO and click ok.  It now tells you its like 721MB in size, CD are limited to 700 or 800 MB,  (different brands diff. sizes)
  4. Click the RED X icon seen below.
  5. On the next screen  there is a yellow folder icon as seen as RED Y below, you click to find your ISO above, do that next.
  6. Insert one blank CD-R disk  into the burner.    (if the drive is bad , or the CD is not CD-R the C
  7. Burn it by clicking BLUE arrow below, done. hear fancy song played, ,music only.  (means success)
  8. Move this new CD just burned to the sick PC.
  9. I boot the sick PC in the CD bay, with boot to CD turned on in BIOS, and boot order set to CD first ! I hammer the space bar, to boot CD, and it does   and  I get asked my  language?, I pick English if true.
  10. Then a menu, shows up, I  pick TRY Lubuntu (means run in LIVE MODE) do so.
  11. See now a delay and a  black screen, then blue screen with 12.04 then back to black screen  and then  blue waves. (it's a CD they are slow  give it up to 5 minutes) The older CD drives are the most slow.(be patient)
  12. You now have a desktop screen,  click start button bottom left,  same place as MS W7 and older. Looks like  white bird icon to me there.
  13. Pick Accessories and in there pick Disk Utility.
  14. Click the drive you want to check on the left side panel.  My PC has 3 drives, my LT has 2. (most have 1)
  15. Then see the report on the right side, see green ball ?, means IT THINKS the  drive may be ok.  (but I never believe this)
  16. Click SMART DATA there, check that page for parameter 198. (same as crystaldisk C6 hex)  value must be 0 or the hdd is bad. end story end job testing. buy a new SSD and upgrade it.
  17. If that is ok, then we next press button BENCH MARK, do not do the read/write , only read.  (that  name "BENCH" means performance testing)
  18. Run the Bench, it see if it looks normal, or even see live errors reading , the Write mode only works on true empty HDD.(avoid write, or risk losing data.!)
  19. That is it, the HDD is ok so, now reload any old XP or VISTA if the installer tells you the HDD is bad, it may be. (or not empty or the SATA chip drivers are missing the F6 blunder?)
  20. I tested this on a new machine AMD FX quad core PC (home made) and my oldest 2002 PC, with XP (an attic stored test box , relic) It runs on both, and runs on my HP Latop. 2009 mfg.
  21. That is my page on legacy boxes.  Old PCs, are hard to work on... but not impossible.
  22. Last and really first,  we see the HDD there and find and backup private data.  (drag and drops just like in Windows)  (use  USB stick to put your almost lost data)
if not seen click mode and pick EZ mode picker, bingo., then click icon next to left X

The CD_R is ready now, below  ,  the ISO file is seen at Y and Z  below, Y is not grayed out, means the CD-R is ready to burn. 
On the right panel shows CD ID data, read off the blank media. (CD and DVD both have identification data storage on disk, telling every one what you own, or have for media)
If the right panel below is blank , the CD is bad or used, or the CD drive is bad. (or is not a burner)
To burn, click the Blue ARROW below.  This program here, I do love... simple and super effective. and 100% free and not some hacked Nero program.
I can burn with just 2 clicks (not counting the browse actions on yellow Y icon below)

A single CD-r costs about 50 cents now (USDollars) in pack of 10 for 5 bucks. (the price is rising due to lower world usage)
Near free in my book,  (pocket change?) so burn one try it, better yet do so and keep it handy and then jump to line 7. Really it is  jump to 11. after the boot.
Below is Bench mark running Lubuntu 12 (13+ years old real intel mother board too)

Results of Read Only Benchmark above.  This old PATA drive is good but very slow. (as all were then)
end Lubuntu sessions.
Just like Knoppix you can in fact cruise a non dead HDD, and backup data or see folders dead , missing or HP_tools or HP_recovery partitions missing or corrupted.
Find a file you'd not want to lose, and drag it to a USB stick to back it up.  Is wise now.

CD compact  disk or optical disk drive. CD-R means recordable CD. same as DVD-R is.
HDD is hard disk drive
SDD is Solid state Drive, vastly faster than above. (and lasts longer, IMO)
USB is universal serial bus ports.
PATA = parallel ATA disk ports, slow.
SATA = serial ATA,  disk ports , super fast and SATA3 fastest, SATA 2 is overkill in most cases. (eSata, external port even hot pluggable )
Burn, the act of programming any DVD or CD our USB serial memory stick.
BIOS, Basic Input output system, HP calls it SETUP, for some odd reason,  all PCs have BIOS. (or UEFI now, UEFI is SECURE BIOS) BIOS runs even with all drives missing.
Linux is a free OS,  kernal 4.13.2  You can run Linux under Window VM or run  Windows XP up under Linux VM.  Ubuntu 17,  gets patched way faster than Anything MS sells.
VM is a virtual machine.   (software emulation of hardware ,example W10 Hyper-V)
SMART = S.M.A.R.T = this.
Ethernet port,  the fasted connection you will every have on any Gigalan port or router, plus FIOS or 16-channel cable modems,(I'm using 16 now)
Stick (my coin) any USB memory stick, made.  USB flash memory stick . (not to be confused with RAM STICKS, that we rarely play with) The best way to boot linux is this and is SUPER FAST to boot.

version 2. 9-19-2017