BackTrack was the winner of our recent Hive Five for best Live CD, so we decided to take it for a test drive and show off a few of the features for everybody else.
BackTrack can be installed to a regular boot cd, a USB drive, installed to the hard drive, or even downloaded as a VMware virtual machine. For our testing, we used the BackTrack 3 stable release instead of the Beta 4 version since most commenters directly mentioned version 3 in the original call for contenders.
After inserting the LiveCD and starting the boot process, you'll be prompted to choose which window environment to load up—the distribution includes the more graphically pleasing KDE, or the trimmed-down Fluxbox window manager.
Once you've booted to the desktop you'll notice the default resolution is 800x600, but can be easily changed through the system tray icon to any resolution.
The slick system monitoring application on the right-hand side of the first screenshot doesn't get started automatically—to open it, you'll need to use the Alt+F2 shortcut key and type
leetmode into the command window. You can unlock the position of the monitors through the context menu, and drag them wherever on the screen you'd like.
One of the more interesting features in the Live CD is the inclusion of the excellent and previously mentioned Yakuake drop-down terminal window, which can be launched through the Alt+F2 dialog, or found under the System menu. Once started, simply use the F12 key to toggle the slide-down terminal.
Connecting to any network resource can be done easily with the Network Folder Wizard, found in the menus at Internet -> KNetAttach. You can easily map to a Windows share, SSH, or FTP server using the wizard—which is nothing more than an easy front-end to the Konqueror browser's rich connection support.
Since this distribution is focused on security, you can find a ton of security-focused tools under the Backtrack menu, although there are far too many to mention every one of them here—you'll have to explore them on your own.
One of the more useful security tools for everyday use is the chntpw utility (found in the menus under Privilege Escalation -> PasswordAttacks) that can reset any Windows password easily from the command line. For more on this command, I've previously written an article about changing your forgotten Windows password.
BackTrack 3 is a free download, works almost anywhere Linux does. Be sure to check out the original Hive Five for the rest of the Live CD choices from your fellow Lifehacker readers, or learn how to rescue files with Knoppix.