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I reinstalled windows on the laptop of my daughter. Before doing this we made a copy of her music, pictures and so on on an external drive which was formatted in NTFS. Unfortunately, the folder we created for the backup was empty (I checked after I reinstalled windows). Today a miracle happened, as suddenly the data were back but when I tried to copy them to another place they disappeared again. Checking the external drive with disk utility I got the message "filesystem is not clean". Is there a way to recover the data? Preferred solution would be a tool with a gui. The drive I need to repair is formatted in NTFS and is connected via usb to laptop.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

If it is a linux partition (ext4)

Go into a LiveCD or LiveUSB, then run sudo fsck -t ext4 /dev/sda# (where sda# is the device and partition number for your drive). If you're unsure which to run this on, please feel free to include in your question the output of sudo fdisk -l, and I can help narrow down which one to check.

If it is a Windows or NTFS partition

If the drive is "NTFS" and its returning unclean, you should boot into Windows and run a chkdisk on that partition. Within Linux, if you run an fsck on NTFS, its likely to break something (NTFS is a windows format, so you should use windows chkdisk). The NTFS fsck, while it may find the general errors, may cause problems if you need to run the NTFS drive within Windows.

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I gave some additional info in my question. The drive is an external drive formatted in NFTS. Will this change the above mentioned command? – dago Jun 25 '12 at 19:28
This may not be the correct advice, given what is described as the events leading up to this problem. – david6 Jun 26 '12 at 9:31
System won't let me delete my answer, so... You're right. This answer is wrong. Please unmark this one as answered, @dago – Thomas Ward Jun 26 '12 at 12:31
Still this answers my question, as the data to be recovered were on an external drive formatted in NTFS and after chkdisk I was able to retrive the data from the drive. Thanks. – dago Jun 27 '12 at 18:43

Windows specific advice:


If you formatted your drive as described, during a (re-)install of Windows, then Linux is not your first priority.

You need an Unerase utility (for NTFS), and you need to use it before attempting to use chkdsk or any other tool.

Ubuntu forum advice:

Ubuntu (and other Linux variants) are quite capable of reading NTFS (and older) Windows-based file systems. This is a good method of data recovery when the OS has become unusable, too slow, or infected with malware.

However, this is no panacea. If you are confronted with driver format errors or corrupted data, then a Windows-specific tools (used correctly) is you best solution.


Just read your 'minor update'. This is confusing, as your original description of re-installing Windows (and overwriting data) is inconsistent with this being an external drive in NTFS format.

Are you trying to recover the backup data (from this external drive), or the drive where you re-installed Windows (overwriting the original data)?

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To some extent zou are right that my description of the problem was not very concise, however, I never mentioned something like overwriting the backup data. But thanks for your information that there would be also a possibility to recover the original date even having formatted the internal drive by reinstalling windows. – dago Jun 26 '12 at 16:28
It is also possible that any external NTFS drive will have permission problems, when accessed from a new Windows install (or another Windows PC). While there are technical ways to resolve this, overwriting permissions using Windows, a better method is to access the external drive from (Ubuntu) Linux. – david6 Jun 27 '12 at 0:34

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