I have a 1TB HDD and some days ago I did a mess

That disk had:

  • One EXT3 partition ( / )
  • One EXT3 partition ( /boot )
  • One LUKS LVM which had a EXT3 partition of about 200 GB

I wanted to replace Linux Mint 14 with Ubuntu 14.04, so I booted Ubuntu 14.04 from USB and did the installation wizard. The wizard asked me "Replace Linux Mint 14 with Ubuntu 14.04", so I did, I also checked to add LVM and to crypt user directory. I set up a password and I installed it.

The installation blocked itself almost at end, and by rebooting via USB i noticed that the HDD was formatted and there was just the /boot and the / (my LUKS LVM was formatted and replaced with those two partitions)

I have

  • The disk itself
  • The dd image of the disk after the disaster (a 1TB img)
  • The passphrase to unlock both the LVM: the oldest one (which I want to recover) and the newest one (to unlock the root partition)

How can I recover my precious data?

  • Try Partition Recovery it promises: Recover data from deleted partitions (accidentally deleted or using programs) Restore files from lost partition caused by repartitioning, boot manager, hard drive crash, virus attack, system installation, etc. Gat data back from quick or full formatted partition Recover files from corrupted partition with "Disk is not formatted" error – Ruslan Gerasimov Jun 20 '14 at 0:56
  • continue: Recover data from inaccessible partition, hard drive, USB drive, floppy disk, etc. Recover data from FAT/NTFS/EXT2/EXT3 partition Restrive data from reformatted volumes or devices Recover data from RAW partition or when no files can be read from RAW disk, RAW USB drive, RAW SD card, etc. Recover data after an MBR corruption Recover data from improper or other partition errors – Ruslan Gerasimov Jun 20 '14 at 0:57
  • @RuslanGerasimov The promises are really good, the problem is that they don't mention "LUKS" , "LVM" nor disk encryption. That's the problem – Denys Vitali Jun 21 '14 at 11:39
  • When you encrypted it, did you make a back-up copy of the key and LUKS header? Or after? – Elliott Frisch Jun 25 '14 at 19:41
  • @ElliottFrisch Thanks for your answer! Unfortunatly no, I haven't. I don't have a back-up of the key nor the one of the LUKS header. – Denys Vitali Jun 27 '14 at 15:06

Unfortunately, per man cryptsetup

LUKS header: If the header of a LUKS volume gets damaged, all data is permanently lost unless you have a header-backup. If a key-slot is damaged, it can only be restored from a header-backup or if another active key-slot with known passphrase is undamaged. Damaging the LUKS header is something people manage to do with surprising frequency. This risk is the result of a trade-off between security and safety, as LUKS is designed for fast and secure wiping by just overwriting header and key-slot area.”

And per your comment (11 hours ago),

Thanks for your answer! Unfortunatly no, I haven't. I don't have a back-up of the key nor the one of the LUKS header.

I think your disks have been (effectively) securely erased; that is the sectors are (at least in theory) indistinguishable from random data.

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  • Thank you for your answer! Next time I'll think twice before formatting a LUKS disk. – Denys Vitali Jun 28 '14 at 11:44

You are not guaranteed that you will recover all your files. If you have anything precious in deleted files then the next worth giving it a try.

You are recommended to unmount this partiton frist. Yoo are not recommended to write on partition any more in order to keep data chains at the drive as they are. In other words avoid overwriting. Stop using this drive immediately!

Boot from Live CD or even better from the different drive with installed OS.

Then you should run the software which find and recovers files/data from your physical storage. It is possible still although Operating Systems can not see deleted files due to their references were deleted from File Table, or File Table was corrupted.


This is a filesystem-independent recovery tool for Linux. The latest version is 2.0. Install it in Ubuntu with

sudo apt-get install scalpel

Next is some text editing — the configuration file is /etc/scalpel/scalpel.conf. You will find that everything has been commented out — uncomment the specific file format that you want to recover. For example, if I want to recover a deleted zip file, I will uncomment the .zip file section in scalpel.conf

Next, in a terminal, run:

sudo scalpel  [device/directory/file name] -o [output directory]

The output directory, in which you want to store recovered files, should be empty before running Scalpel; otherwise, you will get an error.


This is the fastest utility of the three. It’s installed by the testdisk utility package. If you don’t want to mess with the command-line, this is the best utility for you. Just run photorecas the root user in a terminal, and you will see a nice ncurses-based UI.

Select the device to search, and it will ask you for the partition table type. Select yours; in my case, it’s Intel. Next, you have to select the filesystem or partition of the device disk. Next, it prompts you to choose the file system.

Last, it will ask for an output folder in which to store recovered files. After making a selection, press y to proceed.

Note: The above utilities will not recover replaced files, because in the case of replacement you are replacing the inode itself, so it’s not possible to recover it.

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  • Thanks for the good answer, I already stopped writing on it (and I made a dd image to not touch the HDD). The actual problem is that the data won't be recoverable without the master key (the key to unlock the LVM drive which was deleted) even if I have the master password (the one to "unlock the master key" and to have access to the ext3 partition) How can scalpel find my files if they were encrypted and I lost the key on the HDD? I'm a bit skeptic about it. Any idea? – Denys Vitali Jun 21 '14 at 11:37
  • True, you won't recover files with photorec unless the partition is decrypted. But testdisk or photorec might be able to find the LUKS header, allowing you to decrypt & attempt further recovery – Xen2050 Jan 28 '16 at 12:19

You could try gpart (note: not gparted!), it can guess the boundaries of lost partitions.

gpart saved me once in a similar situation, although my partitions were not encrypted. You should still give it a try though.

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  • I mounted the image with sudo kpartx -l /media/user/drive/backup/sdd.img but sudo gpart /dev/loop0 gives me *** Fatal error: ioctl(HDIO_GETGEO) failed: Inappropriate ioctl for device. Anyway the disk is recognized by gparted and system as normal (with the new partition table, the one that was written over the one i lost) – Denys Vitali Jun 22 '14 at 11:22

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