Linux Recovery: NTFS Tips and Tricks

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This guide will show you how to recover data that has been lost on an NTFS partition. NTFS is usually used on Windows XP and later and is generally quite a stable and secure file system. However, like everything, things can go wrong. This is where Linux can come into play and help you to recover those important files and documents and put them somewhere safe.

The first thing you will need to go is gain a Linux LiveCD or a LiveUSB stick. If you have a USB stick lying around somewhere and would like to use that, then use unetbootin to install Linux to it and boot it from your computer (if your computer supports USB booting) or just use a CD/DVD.

The distribution you use is entirely up to you; if you’re not sure, I would advise using Ubuntu as it supports most hardware and doesn’t usually take too much messing about to get those vital files.

Booting Up

In order to boot from your new LiveCD or LiveUSB, you may need to set your BIOS to boot from your CD or USB drive before your hard drive. This will ensure it is booted from the disk and does not touch your hard drive. Once it has booted into a desktop, the first thing to do (if you are in a distribution using Gnome) is to click the “places” button and see if it can find the NTFS partition. It will look something like “73 GB Filesystem” but it may be a different size.

If it is there, you can mount it by clicking on the drive and then copying everything over to an external source before reinstalling Windows and basking in the glory that you have rescued your files. If it is not there, then there are a few more tricks of the trade we can try in order to see if we can find it.

Open a terminal window (if you are Ubuntu: Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal) and type in: sudo fdisk -l

This should list all of the drives and partitions currently on your computer in a table. On the very end column should be “System”, so look for a drive with NTFS and note down its device name, and then type:

sudo mkdir media/c

sudo mount -t ntfs -o nls=utf8,umask=0222 {Your Device} /media/c

Replace {Your Device} with the actual device name you got from the fdisk command above.

It’s not there?

If the partition is not in the fdisk list, it means it is gone from the computer. But there may still be ways to get it back using Linux magic in the form of a package known as testdisk. Download it using this if you have ubuntu: sudo apt-get install testdisk

Testdisk is great for analyzing your disks for partitions that have previously been deleted. If you have just deleted it, then it is quite likely that you will be able to get all of the data back. If you would like more information on testdisk and other partition recovery tools in Linux, see this article.