Save my disks ?

Posted on 2001-06-06
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2010-04-20
Please don't laugh, I am definitely not...

I am an new beginner concerning Linux with the ambition of leaving Windows, but:

I installed a linux server whithout paying much attention to all the information during the installation (I installed linux workstation a couple of times before).

Now all my three harddrives are ext2, and I can't get any information when I boot with a Windows start disk.

I do have a lot of very important things on the discs, and I wonder if there is some way of saving it, or parts of it.

Desperately yours,
Question by:vdrj3ggr
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Expert Comment

ID: 6163256
Sorry to hear of your problem, Sune.

When you say "three harddrives", do you mean:
a) 3 separate physical disk drives in your PC, or
b) 3 partitions on one physical disk drive?

I assume when you say that "all three are ext2" that you can boot Linux OK.  Please type "df" at a terminal window, and post the results back up here.  If there is a way to get your Windows data back, then let's find it.  

If you have reformatted a Windows file system (FAT, FAT32, NTFS) as ext2, then there is little hope I'm afraid.  But if you have separate physical disks, and simply can't see one of them at the moment from either Linux or from DOS bootfloppy, then there is indeed a chance to save your data.


Author Comment

ID: 6163307
I do have three separate physical disks.

When I examine my hardrive with PQ Magic in my friends computer, I see that Linux has created partitions on the beginning of the disks, and the rest is considered "free space" (about 70% of the disk).

So the problem is that the root sectors have been changed, and the "free space" still contains my windows files because they havn't been formatted. But, I wonder if there is some way of rescueing the "free space"? Maybe Norton Unerase Wizard or something similar? What happens if I uninstall Linux with "Lilo -u"?

I have some information from my system now (I viewed hdb in PQ Magic, see below):


/dev/hda6 on / type ext2 (rw)
none on /proc type proc (rw)
usbdevfs on /proc/bus/usb type usbdevfs (rw)
/dev/hda1 on /boot type ext2 (rw)
/dev/hdb5 on /home type ext2 (rw)
/dev/hdb1 on /usr type ext2 (rw)
/dev/hda5 on /var type ext2 (rw)
none on /dev/pts type devpts (rw,gid=5,mode=620)
automount(pid761) on /misc type autofs


/sbin/fdisk -l /dev/hda

Disk /dev/hda: 255 heads, 63 sectors, 1027 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 bytes

Device Boot Start End Blocks Id System
/dev/hda1 * 1 7 56196 83 Linux
/dev/hda2 8 1027 8193150 f Win95 Ext'd (LBA)
/dev/hda5 8 40 265041 83 Linux
/dev/hda6 41 73 265041 83 Linux
/dev/hda7 74 106 265041 82 Linux swap
/sbin/fdisk -l /dev/hdb

Disk /dev/hdb: 255 heads, 63 sectors, 3111 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 bytes

Device Boot Start End Blocks Id System
/dev/hdb1 * 1 1349 10835811 83 Linux
/dev/hdb2 1350 3111 14153265 5 Extended
/dev/hdb5 1350 2698 10835811 83 Linux

/sbin/fdisk -l /dev/hdc

Disk /dev/hdc: 16 heads, 63 sectors, 6256 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 1008 * 512 bytes

Device Boot Start End Blocks Id System


Author Comment

ID: 6163353
Filesystem           1k-blocks      Used Available Use% Mounted on
/dev/hda6               256667     52603    190812  22% /
/dev/hda1                54416      3828     47779   8% /boot
/dev/hdb5             10665744      2100  10121856   1% /home
/dev/hdb1             10665744   1052576   9071380  11% /usr
/dev/hda5               256667    100764    142651  42% /var
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Expert Comment

ID: 6167751
> When I examine my hardrive with PQ Magic in my friends
> computer, I see that Linux has created partitions
> on the beginning of the disks, and the rest is
> considered "free space" (about 70% of the disk).

Where is that free space: hda, hdb, hdc?  You've got an extended partition on hda2, with logical partitions inside it (hda5, hda6 & hda7 between cyl 8 and 106), pretty standard config.  Is the "free space" what's left inside from 106 to the end of the disk then?  If so, then it might be possible to recover data from in there, either by marking that space (with Linux fdisk or GNU parted) as whichever type of Win partition it was before the part-table got overwritten (FAT/FAT32/NTFS).  Alternatively, you might be able to boot from a Norton Utils recover disk to search for that partition, and mark it automatically, but proceed with the utmost caution.
How about that /dev/hdc?  Was there any Windows data on there before?  I see there's no file sys marked on the partition table.
LVL 16

Expert Comment

ID: 6169747
Painful.  If the first several clusters of your [former] windows partitions has been destroyed, then you'll likely lose all file and directory names (although if you regularly ran some product that backs up critical areas of your windoze filesystes, then there may be some hope.)  If your file/directory names are irretrievable, then you're probably going to either have to run some professional recorvery software which will make some educated guesses about file types, boundaries, etc., spend tedious hours manually viewing every cluster searching for your data, or you could just send it off to a professional data recovery service.



Accepted Solution

jdfox earned 600 total points
ID: 6170603
Agreed. I used to do exactly that for panic-stricken lawyers and their secretaries back in the 80s, and yes by golly it is painful: you need to go through step by step, looking at many dozens of discarded saves of the same damn .doc file, and work out which one is the one you want...  And of course the drives are a lot bigger than 80 meg nowadays.  

Norton Utils 2000 can hunt for what appears to be a partition, and save everything in sight to lots of truncated files with new auto-gen'd numeric names, and even then it's a long way from perfect: it might trash the files you're after, in its haste to recover the unneeded dreck.  

But OTOH, if it's really precious data, then you do what you gotta do.  Spend the time, or spend the money.  Sorry to be the co-bringer of bad tidings.

Good luck pal...


Author Comment

ID: 6227118
I tried before to recover files by over writing an ext2 table with a fat32 table on another hard drive. (i made an experiment, simulation what had happend on my 'real' discs)

I used Norton Unerase wizard. It could only recover raw cluster info into txt files. I am looking for another program, but can't find any.

I quess there is nothing else to do than to look in every .txt file for desired files, but what do I do with binary files (eg. mov, jpeg) that can't be copy and pasted from an text file?


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