Lifeboat v1.0

Reviewed by: Greg Carson, August 2005
Published by: Tugboat Enterprises
Requires: Intel compatible PC (486 or better) 16MB RAM, CD drive, network connection to a second computer, CD burner required to burn ISO image, floppy drive required if CD drive not bootable
MSRP: US$99.99

(Ed. Note: Lifeboat was renamed Selkie Data Rescue in December 2006. Read our review of Selkie Data Rescue v2)

Sooner or later, every computer system fails. No matter what kind of maintenance or attention you pay to it, every computer is going to crash and burn and generally mess up your life and business at some point. That's right. Computers are spiteful and lack moral conscience or indeed anything even remotely respectful of their owners. Disaster always seems to take place at the worst and most unexpected of times, right when you are most vulnerable. The computer dies leaving you high and dry. When this happened, it used to be that you'd have to take your entire computer to a technician and let him fiddle around with it for a week or two before recovering only a few of the files you needed and charging hundreds for his efforts. In recent years however, software developers have begun to create simpler programs for the average user. These utility programs allow you to retrieve files from damaged or inoperable computers. Lifeboat, from Tugboat Enterprises, epitomizes these efforts. For SOHO, home-office and small business owners who lack the foresight to create daily incremental backups of crucial data, this category of software is very important.

Lifeboat is an easy to use program that gives users the ability to rescue important data files from a computer after it crashes. The software requires very few resources to run which makes it useable in even the most horrific of computer malfunctions. If your operating system won't boot, that's okay because Lifeboat will. The program itself uses no video resources aside from the basic 16-colour VGA interface, so even if your video card is dying, Lifeboat will still run. These are very important characteristics unique to this piece of software that many other widely available data retrieval programs have not yet incorporated.

The concept behind Lifeboat's rescue system is innovative and definitely unique to the data rescue software category. In order for Lifeboat to work, you must boot the sick PC with a Lifeboat CD or floppy. Lifeboat will run the computer through a start-up sequence before pausing at a welcome screen. This is where the clever Lifeboat developers exhibit their prowess. The sick computer must be networked with a working computer. If you know very little about networking, and are currently not in a network that’s okay too. Lifeboat runs in two modes, basic and advanced. In basic mode, it will walk you through the setup of a network. Once the network has been established, Lifeboat will tell you to leave the sick computer with Lifeboat running and go to the other working computer and run Network Neighborhood from My Computer. From there you will be able to access and retrieve files from the ailing computer. Tugboat enterprises refers to the technique the program employs as a "bootable CD-based file server" which basically just means that you use it to bypass a crashed operating system to get to your files.

We don't know the technical details behind Lifeboat's method of accessing unbootable hard drives, but the network interface to the sick computer seems to work consistently and well and provides extensive access to folders and files. We've got a number of dead hard drives lying around, several of which we've been meaning to resurrect with SpinRite 6 primarily because of the need for a small handful of files that are inaccessible. We tried Lifeboat on one of the drives and managed to recover five of the seven files we needed. Not bad at all. Lifeboat didn't restore the drive like a pass with SpinRite, but that's not what Lifeboat is designed to do.

Lifeboat is simple, intuitive and provides data retrieval results in a matter of minutes. If you're working in an environment where the contents of your computer are crucial to your livelihood and you don't backup nearly as often as you should, there’s no reason to not have this program. Recommended.





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