If your laptop crashes, what's the best to recover the data on it? Well, one IBM engineer used his iPod.

At Big Blue's USA PartnerWorld conference Steve Welch used software on the iPod to save the crashed ThinkPad. The software is One-touch Rescue & Recovery On Linux and is not as yet an announced IBM product.

Welch said the iPod-based software could rebuild a hard drive in an hour or so and provide instant access to data such as e-mail and Lotus Notes, saying: "This is music to my ears."

Actually the facility is old hat. What's new is the iPod and Linux.

IBM PCs and notebooks now come with software from XPoint Technologies. This arrangement has existed since 2003. The software can be licensed for other PCs. IBM calls the technology IBM Rescue and Recovery. It is part of its ThinkVantage program and provides users with do-it-yourself access to the notebook or PC even if the system can't boot.

In that circumstance, the user accesses the facility by pressing the blue Access key button on supported IBM systems or the F11 key on other PCs running the software. This operates at the BIOS level and enables the XPoint software to take over the system. It can recover files, folders or even an entire system image, if it has been previously saved. The software includes diagnostic tools and a view of basic system information such as its BIOS set-up.

It does not work if the hard drive has crashed though.

The XPoint Technologies software backups data on the PC's hard drive to a hidden partition, not accessible to the operating system, or to an external device. The first backup is a full one with subsequent backups being only of changed data - called differential backups. This data can be accessed by the Rescue and Recovery software. Rescue and Recovery is independent of Windows; the initial image is taken in DOS during the PC's setup.

Interestingly, Frank Wang, XPoint's president and CEO, was a member of the original technology team that developed the first IBM PC.