I was trying to reformat my old Windows laptop and replace the OS with Ubuntu 14.04.4 using Unetbootin. I did not have a Flash pen drive at the time so I used my external hard drive to boot and install Ubuntu. The external HD contained more than 300GB of files in one folder plus the Ubuntu ISO file. During installation, I chose to delete all Windows related files in the laptop and replace it with Ubuntu (it was an option in the Ubuntu installation), thinking that when I restart the laptop after installation, Ubuntu would have replaced Windows in drive C.

Unfortunately, Ubuntu was installed in the laptop but it did not replace the Windows (so I can both boot in Windows in Ubuntu). Worse, all files in the external HD were deleted, and were replaced by files in drive C of my old Windows laptop.

My goal is to recover all the lost files in the External HD. My plan is to use Recuva. But to complicate things, I cannot access my external hard drive using a Windows laptop. Although it is recognized as a "device", it does not appear as an as an option in "This PC". Note that this external HD is accessible through a Ubuntu laptop.

So my question are:

1) How can I make the external HD accessible using a laptop with Windows OS?

2) With the "background story" in mind, what steps can I do to recover the files, if you think Recuva is not enough?

Before writing this, I have read some of the related questions and I would like to say that I am grateful for the help this community offers to end-users like me.


Windows will not be able to read Ubuntu (ext4) formatted drives. I have no experience with Recuva, and whether it can recover from ext4 formatted drives.

What I know however is that you will be able to recover those files, or directories that were not yet overwritten using Open Source Linux tools such as TestDisk. This tool can be installed in an Ubuntu live session (i.e. by booting from an Ubuntu installation USB choosing "try out Ubuntu").

To do so you need the following:

  • a working Internet connection on the live Ubuntu (prefer LAN over wireless).
  • an Ubuntu USB drive from where you can boot.
  • a spare drive to store the rescued files on.

In case TestDisk fails to recover all files we may also give PhotoRec a chance.

  • Hi Takkat. Thanks for this fast, brief, and useful explanation. I feel very relieved to know that there is a chance that the files will be recovered. I will try this and will share my experience. I am very grateful for your kindness. Thank you. – paleonoob Mar 27 '16 at 14:09

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