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My favorite rescue disk is Tom's Root/Boot. You can use it to boot up your 'broken' machine, then just mount the partition where you used to have /etc.
mount /dev/hdX# /mnt
Set up your 'good' machine to allow ftp logins, then copy the 'good' /etc directory to the ftp root folder. You can then use wget on your broken machine (it's included on Tom's rt/bt) to copy the /etc directory from your 'good' machine to your 'broken' machine. Hopefully the configuration of your 'good' machine is similar enough to get you up and running. You'll have to edit /etc/fstab and /etc/lilo.conf, probably some other files as well. You may also have to chmod to change some permissions. Then you can use chroot to change your root password and to run lilo. Run 'man chroot' in Tom's for more info.
Another option is to physically pull the hard drive from your 'broken' machine, install it in your 'good' machine, boot up, mount the /etc-less hard drive, and copy whatever data you need to the 'good' machine.
And, while you have the hard drive mounted in your 'good' computer, you could pretty easily just copy the /etc directory over.
Just a thought.
Can you remove the hard drive from the "wounded machine" set it up in another linux machine as a slave drive. Boot the "host machine as per normal and mount the "wounded" drive (/mnt/linux_hospital?) then using the root of the healthy machine, copy it's /etc dir over and edit anything else you need to do?
I'm sitting here with the (mostly) working machine next to me. It was about a two day process, with the wounded machine next to a healthy one, using the rescue disk to boot the wounded one, and then copying files onto it (using the floppy disk) from the healthy one, until I got networking going well enough to copy the critical application and data files off of it. Then I wiped the machine and rebuilt it, and put stuff back onto it.
My only frustration was the fact that the graphics chip (I forget the model) was not supported by the most recent version of x86 (shipped with RHEL-3), so I still haven't been able to get X running on it, and it's not worth the pain to go scrambling for, since I use it entirely for Apache/fileserving/MySQL stuff.
Moral of the story? Drop a safe on your toe, but don't nuke /etc. It's way more painful ;-)
I've accidently deleted a whole hard drive(80 gig) of pirated media(and a few legit files). moral of my story, don't mount things in / and then accidently unzip something in there and delete all the non system folders.....