Linux, a great file recovery work-around

This may be a bit more technical than my usual articles. Sorry.

You should have a read though and keep this in mind.

The information will probably come in handy sooner or later even if you do need help making it work for you.


Recently I had cause to attempt to recover some files from a windows machine with a drastically failing hard drive.

But no matter how I looked at it from a windows perspective, the results were looking bleak to say the least.


The drive had been removed from the machine and I was attempting to grab whatever files I could using a hard drive dock.


The problem was, on top of the fact that the drive was about to totally fail, that Windows on my machines saw something they recognised and they tried to help me and be smart about interpreting what was on the drive.


A couple of times I was teased with seeing file structures but Windows wouldn't let me go any further without taking ownership of the structures...and the drive was not up for that.


So I thought I'd use my Linux machine to bypass this overhead and attempt to look at the drive in a raw kind of way.


It worked!


The drive was still flakey and failing but Linux didn't care what Windows permissions were going on, it just showed me the files and let me copy them to an external hard drive for safekeeping and return to their rightful owner.


It took over 3 hours to copy a mere 2.1Gb of data but that was everything and all we needed.


To do this yourself you don't need a Linux machine.


All you need is a Linux bootable thumb drive and, as shown in the top image, you can boot into Linux to just "try" it with the Windows PC you already own.


Many distributions of Linux come with this feature. My preference is Ubuntu but it by no means the ONLY linux I use these days.


There are so many that not even my favourite "other" distro's are on this list...but knock yourself out: https://www.techradar.com/best/best-linux-distros


Most Linux distributions will talk you through how to make a bootable evaluation thumb drive. So I won't do that here.


NOTE: Here it is described as a live CD/Drive and what's being is a special data recovery version of Linux, but the details is worth looking at for step by step instructions: https://www.online-tech-tips.com/computer-tips/how-to-retrieve-windows-files-using-a-linux-live-cd/


You then need to boot from it using your Windows 10 recovery/boot options (explained here https://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-boot-from-usb-windows-10)


Once your machine starts up it will be running Linux from the thumb drive.


Windows is still there on the built in hard drive (usually the C: drive) so you can explore it using one of Ubuntu's file navigation tools.


Plug in your external hard drive and copy the data you want "recovered" to it.


Shutdown the computer. remove the thumb drive and reboot it (if it can). It should start up in Windows the way it was before. Which is probably misbehaving if we've done this but then you can use Windows tools to re-install it and start from scratch.


It usually is that easy (did that sound easy?).


NOTE: Many distributions of Linux will allow you to install it along with your Windows operating system. They install a boot manager for you and allow you to choose which operating system you want to start the computer with. This too is usually very straight forward BUT you don't want to experiment with this on your important/main PC where there's data you want back. There's a very good chance you could make things worse i.e. harder/impossible to see those files you want back. Use a test machine for playing before risking your actual computer.


NOTE 2: Ubuntu/Linux is a perfectly valid way to give an old computer a new lease of life with a free operating system (did I mention Linux is free?). You need never use Windows again if you don't want to.


Have fun and I hope you get those files back.


David


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