My Ubuntu laptop died recently and I've pulled the hard drive out of it. I'm trying to read the data on it from a windows 8.1 laptop but I don't think its recognizing the file system.

I've tried installing an ubuntu virtualbox VM but it's unable to detect the hard drive.

I'm currently unable to dual boot due to lack of blank CD's... is there a way to read the hard drive using Windows 8.1?

5 Answers 5


Windows only naturally understands Windows file systems... but you can install more.

Ubuntu by default uses ext4 these days, so you probably need something like this :


  • 1
    Thanks, installing that program in compatibility mode and running it as an admin let me mount the drive and copy over the files. Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 21:21
  • I'd advise write-protected access only though, as write support isn't all that reliable and may result in file system corruption. Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 0:41

It appears that the ext2fsd solution has not been updated in over 2 years, and has outstanding known bugs that indicate they create data corruption, so I would be cautious about that approach.

I think you would be be better off accessing the filesystem from a native OS. I would suggest that you prepare a bootable image of the Ubuntu desktop installer ISO for the version you have/had installed on the dead PC, and use that to boot your Windows 8 PC.

  1. On the Windows 8 machine, download the appropriate image from Ubuntu.
  2. On the Windows 8 machine, either burn the image to a CD/DVD, or make a bootable image on a USB/flash device (I prefer the PenDrive Rufus tool on Windows).
  3. Power down the Windows 8 machine and attach the dead Ubuntu machine's disk via SATA (before power up) or USB (before or after).
  4. Insert the Ubuntu CD/DVD/USB/flashdrive in the Windows 8 machine.
  5. Power up the Windows 8 machine; when it starts, be sure to configure the BIOS to boot from CD/DVD or "removable device" (USB/Flash) before the local HDD, or choose it from the boot-time BIOS selection.
  6. At the Ubuntu Live Welcome screen, select "Try Ubuntu", not "Install Ubuntu", and allow the system to load.
  7. Look for dead system's disk on the Live Ubuntu's desktop/Nautilus/mount list.
  8. Navigate to the files on the old linux drive that you want to recover, and copy them to a partition on the Windows 8 machine, a USB/flash device, or network storage.
  9. Shutdown the Live Ubuntu image and remove the Ubuntu CD/DVD/USB/flash device from the Windows system.
  10. Restart the Windows machine under Windows 8 and access the files from the location you copied them to.
  • You could also replace Windows 8 with Ubuntu while you have the disk/usb handy.
    – NoBugs
    Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 5:51

Yep. Get a driver to read it like http://sourceforge.net/projects/ext2fsd/

I havent used linux forever so google one for whatever filesystem you use.


Yes, by far the best solution, with support for ext4, google then install Paragon ExtFS. It will alow native access on Mac or all current Windows.


(someone correct me if i am wrong) but you should ba able to boot from the ubuntu hard drive in your laptop by swiching them out since linux dosnt have licensing like windows, then all you have to do is copy the files to a flash drive or to your windows hard drive with a sata to usb adapter

  • Wrong. The main reason why it's often difficult to boot an OS installation on another computer isn't licensing but technical (usually device driver) issues. Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 0:43

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