I was moving a pile of MP3s from my Music folder to an external HDD (it is fat32, if that matters), when I realized that I should not have selected "apply to all" when I told it to "Overwrite" for one of the files. There was one directory in particular that wanted merged. So I cancelled the move.

About half of the files had already moved when I did this.

Now I am trying to move the rest of the files, but am running into weird "file already exists" problems. As in: I try to move a file to the target directory and no matter what I do, it will not allow me, saying that the file exists in the target directory. My only option is to "skip" or "cancel". Of course the file does not appear in any directory listing of the target directory. I have dozens of files and folders now that I am unable to move because of this weird phenomenon.

I suspect that when I cancelled the mass-move that something got screwed up, but now I don't know how to recover and I cannot seem to phrase this question well enough to get google to find me a solution.


You can try the following methods:

  1. Unmount and disconnect the external HDD, and after that connect it again. Check if the phantom files are gone.

  2. Reboot the computer. Check if the phantom files are gone.

  3. Repair the file system of the external HDD. Since it is a Windows file system, use Windows, if you can,

    chkdsk /f X:

    where X is the drive letter in Windows (or use a GUI tool).

    Otherwise, try with the following command line in Ubuntu,

    sudo dosfsck -a /dev/sdxy

    where x is the drive letter and y is the partition number, for example /dev/sdb1 for the first partition in drive b. See Code:

    man dosfsck

    for more details. dosfsck comes with the package dosfstools.

    Sometimes this 'least destructive method' of the option -a is not enough, and you need the option -r to 'interactively repair the filesystem'.

    sudo dosfsck -r /dev/sdxy

    This -r option was necessary when I had provoked a damaged file system by unplugging while a big iso file was copied (to a pendrive with a FAT32 file system).

    Now I think that the phantom files should be gone or made into real files.

  • None of this seemed to help. I was unable to find a way to run "chkdsk" on my windows Vista partition. I was able to defrag... that's the only disk utility that seems to be there. – Mark Jan 3 '17 at 0:13
  • The only indication that something was being fixed was that dosfsck -a reported that a "dirty bit" was set. Other than that, I had no indication of anything being fixed on either the -a or -r runs of dosfsck – Mark Jan 3 '17 at 0:14
  • dosfsck is not as powerful as chkdsk. You can start a command line window alias dosprompt alias cmd in Windows Vista, and from that window you can run chkdsk /f X: – sudodus Jan 3 '17 at 7:00
  • Ok, I was able to run "cmd". It had to be run as Administrator for chkdsk to work - but it found no problems. I then thought to try moving the files using windows file manager because unlike PCManFM, it give you the option to merge folders with same name when cut/pasting. So I did this. It warned me about replacing existing files, but it actually gave me the option to overwrite (unlike PCManFM)... so I did that. And now the files are definitely not in their old location (folder is empty), but they also don't seem to be in the new location either... so I think I just lost 210 MP3s... – Mark Jan 3 '17 at 19:33
  • I'm sorry that this happened. Maybe something is wrong with that file system. Or you should reboot for the actions to be completed. - You might be able to recover the files with PhotoRec, but it is a lot of work. In that case, don't use the partition until you have recovered the files. – sudodus Jan 3 '17 at 20:52

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