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For some reason my bootup isn't working. I get an error akin to "Operating System Not Found". So I tried bootrepair, and that didn't work. So then I decided I would just save my personal files, wipe everything, and reinstall. Except when I go to the /home directory, my username folder isn't there, instead it goes to the Live CD's desktop and file folders. Is there some other error occurring? Is there a way to recover the files?

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Have you 'mounted' the drive where you previously installed ubuntu using the live cd environment? it should be visible on the desktop - just click on it to mount. –  Mark Rooney Nov 13 '11 at 2:04

2 Answers 2

Finding the Installed System's Partition(s)

When you're running from the live CD/DVD/USB, /home is the parent of home directories on the live CD system (nothing much interesting there), not the parent of home directories on the installed system.

You have to find your hard disk, which is listed on the left side of any file browser window, near the top. Mount that (or if there's more than one volume listed, mount the one for your Ubuntu system, or if you're not sure, mount them all and go through them to see). As Mark Rooney commented, you can just click on it to mount it. Then find the home folder in there.

That will probably be sufficient to enable you to copy your files out. Remember that copying them, say, to the desktop of the live CD system would be useless, as they would go away when you reboot. Instead you must:

  • copy them to an external drive or USB flash drive (but if you're booted from a USB flash drive, not that one, unless it has a persistent area and you really know what you're doing), or
  • put them on another machine on the network, or email them to yourself, or otherwise store them on an Internet server (for example, with a service like Ubuntu One), or
  • burn them to a CD/DVD.

Overcoming Errors About Insufficient Permissions

If you are told that you lack permissions to access any of the files, then you can get around this by using a Nautilus (i.e., file browser) window running as root. To do that, press Alt+F2, type in gksu nautilus (or gksudo nautilus), and press Enter.

A file browser window run this way pretty much has the power to perform any action, and programs launched from it--for example, by right-clicking on a document in it and clicking to open it--will run as root as well. So you should be careful. And close the root Nautilus window when you're done with it so you don't accidentally use it to break something.

Some Ubuntu live ISOs don't have the gksu package, which provides the gksu and gksudo commands, installed by default.

  • You can install it (live environments support nonpersistent software installation).
  • But it would probably be easier to use sudo -H nautilus or sudo -i nautilus, which are okay too.

If Your File Browser Isn't nautilus

Nautilus is called Files (or GNOME Files) in newer versions, but the command to run it is still nautilus. However, if your live CD/DVD/USB system for an Ubuntu flavor that's not GNOME (or Unity) based, the default file browser will be different and will require a different command to run as root.

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Thanks for that thorough explanation. I think the problem might be that I mistook the "File System" in Nautilus as my hard drive. So now I guess my problem is that the drive isn't being seen by nautilus. –  user33617 Nov 13 '11 at 4:01
    
@user33617 While running from the live CD, please open a Terminal window (Ctrl+Alt+T) and run sudo fdisk -l. Then you can edit your original post to include all the text from the Terminal. That is, in the Terminal, do Edit > Select All followed by Edit > Copy, and then paste this into your post between pre tags (i.e., with <pre> at the beginning and </pre> at the end). –  Eliah Kagan Nov 13 '11 at 17:13

Do you have an encrypted home directory? You'll find a bunch of encrypted files in /home/.ecryptfs/<username>/.Private. See http://www.ubuntugeek.com/recover-your-encrypted-private-directory-using-ecryptfs-recover-private.html

How do you "go to the /home directory?" With a "cd" shell command, by clicking on an icon in Nautilus, or what?

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I don't believe I encrypted my home folder. By "going to it" I mean I opened the folder on my hard drive in Nautilus. –  user33617 Nov 13 '11 at 2:39

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