Ask Ubuntu is a question and answer site for Ubuntu users and developers. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

So my computer crashed and as of now I am currently running Ubuntu 12.04 on a USB. I'm using the try option because for some reason it won't let me do a full install. I researched and realized that may have to erase my entire hard drive before I can do a reinstall. If this is the case I would like to know if there is anyway I can retrieve the data I had store on my partition. Under the try option I don't have permission to access my own files and am unsure if I can recover them if I do a hard reset. If anyone has any helpful suggestions I would appreciate it.

I tried all the helpful suggestions and none of them worked so instead I just re-installed 12.04 back on my hard-drive. I was able to recover videos I had stored but none of the documents that I had saved. Thanks for the help.

share|improve this question
here's useful manual – JoKeR Mar 2 '14 at 15:13
If the data is important to you, I would not give up to easily. Do you know if you had partitions you can use to do an installation to rescue the files on the other partition? As long as you do not reformat the data partition, there is a good chance you can save the contents of it. in far most occasions, a crash is about software problems. – Jacob Vlijm Mar 2 '14 at 15:53
My computer has 160GB of storage and I separated it into four separate partitions. I only used one as my main one where all my files were stored. I would like to do a rescue ie move my files to another partition but I don't know how. I've tried numerous suggestions and none of them worked. – user253466 Mar 2 '14 at 16:06

If all fails, there is another option that will work almost for sure if the drive is not broken:

At least one of your partitions (not the data partition) needs to be large enough to contain the system (6GB). If that is the case, start the installer ("Install Ubuntu") and walk through the steps until the window: "installation type". Choose "something else".

In the partition overview (in the next window), select the partition you need to save the data from, and choose "change" (next to the +/-). Choose the same filesystem as the partition already is, set the mount point to /rescue or something.

Assign the swap partition (it is already there) and do not reformat /rescue. Set the mountpoint of one of the other partionos to / and install Ubuntu. After installation is finished, the files will be in /rescue.

If you do not have a "spare" partition, you would have to resize the data partition first to be able to create a partition that can hold the system.

share|improve this answer

"Crashed" could mean many things. Perhaps you just borked grub, so you can't boot. Maybe the disk drive is truly dead. First thing to do is not write anything to the disk drive you want to salvage until you know a bit more.

Since you're able to boot to a live USB, sudo fdisk -l in a terminal menu should show you all the drives your live USB booted system sees. If the hard drive in question is listed, that's a good sign.

Now you have to decide what that information on the drive is worth to you. If you have a recent backup, you might want to move ahead with a re-format and reinstall, wiping everything and starting over. If you don't have a recent backup, and there's something you really don't think you can lose, you could perhaps use dd to make a bit-by-bit copy of the questionable drive onto a USB drive of larger capacity, then try to recover data from that copy so you don't destroy the original.

Of course, it the live USB Ubuntu you're booting from doesn't see the drive, you're probably hosed.

share|improve this answer
After careful research I've come to discover that it was in fact my grub2 software that died on me. The dd pkg isn't installed and can't be installed onto my computer because it doesn't have an internet connection. I have USB drives that I can copy my files onto I just need to know how. – user253466 Mar 2 '14 at 16:12
If it's just grub, the hard drive should auto-mount when you boot off the live USB. It should be a simple matter to find your user files on that hard drive. It's at /home/<user_name> on the hard drive, not the live USB. You should be able to copy your whole home folder somewhere safe using Nautilus. Then you can do anything you want. 14.04 includes an option to install without touching your user files. That would upgrade you, re-install grub, not touch your user files (which you would have backed up anyway). I just did this last weekend. – Marc Mar 2 '14 at 16:24
Gonna sound like an idiot but I can't find files using user name. I don't use the terminal often and can't remember the name I use. Password to long in yes, user name no – user253466 Mar 2 '14 at 17:06
OK, assuming your live USB is running Ubuntu, not Lubuntu or some other variant, you'll have the Unity menu on the left. Click on the "file cabinet" icon to open Nautilus, the file manager. Midway down on the left, you'll see "Devices" where all disk drives Ubuntu sees should be listed. Anything mounted should have a little grey triangle. Is there something there that could be your hard drive? Does it have the triangle showing it is mounted? – Marc Mar 2 '14 at 17:27
My unity menu isn't showing an icon labeled file cabinet. I even used dash to see if I could find it and got nothing. I do see Video, where my files are located but I can't mount it. – user253466 Mar 2 '14 at 17:36

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.