Linux or UNIX Recover deleted files – undelete files

by on December 18, 2004 · 30 comments· LAST UPDATED December 17, 2006

in , ,

If you rum rm command accidentally and deleted important a file, recovery becomes critical under Linux and/or UNIX oses.

Since Linux is multiuser and multitasking operating system other users/process can overwrite deleted file disk space. So you need to take down system to single user mode.

First use wall (only the super-user can write on the terminals of users) command write a message to all users, then use init (process control initialization) command to take system to single user mode.

Procedure

Following are generic steps to recover text files.

First use wall command to tell user that system is going down in a single user mode:
# wallOutput:

System is going down to .... please save your work.

Press CTRL+D to send message.

Next use init 1 command to take system to a single user mode:
# init 1

Using grep (traditional UNIX way) to recover files

Use following grep syntax:
grep -b 'search-text' /dev/partition > file.txt
OR
grep -a -B[size before] -A[size after] 'text' /dev/[your_partition] > file.txt
Where,

  • -i : Ignore case distinctions in both the PATTERN and the input files i.e. match both uppercase and lowercase character.
  • -a : Process a binary file as if it were text
  • -B Print number lines/size of leading context before matching lines.
  • -A: Print number lines/size of trailing context after matching lines.

To recover text file starting with "nixCraft" word on /dev/sda1 you can try following command:
# grep -i -a -B10 -A100 'nixCraft' /dev/sda1 > file.txt

Next use vi to see file.txt. This method is ONLY useful if deleted file is text file. If you are using ext2 file system, try out recover command. .

See also:

TwitterFacebookGoogle+PDF versionFound an error/typo on this page? Help us!

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 sonia October 27, 2006 at 11:13 am

please show the whole procedure slide by slide so that layman can understand better.

Reply

2 sridhar January 9, 2007 at 5:42 am

the files in /var directory have gone missing in our solaris server.is there any way we can recover it???????please help

Reply

3 nixCraft January 10, 2007 at 6:55 am

sridhar,

There is no real undelete available (until and unless you go for 3rd party commercial software). Restore file from backup. If it is config file restore by copying 3rd system or reinstalling package.

Appreciate your post.

Reply

4 manish December 13, 2007 at 3:03 am

i have removed .xsd files now i want them back.can anyone help me to get my .xsd files.

Thanks in advance

Reply

5 Christophe GRENIER January 3, 2009 at 3:28 am

http://www.cgsecurity.org/wiki/PhotoRec

PhotoRec is file data recovery software designed to recover lost files including video, documents and archives from Hard Disks and CDRom and lost pictures (thus, its ‘Photo Recovery’ name) from digital camera memory. PhotoRec ignores the filesystem and goes after the underlying data, so it will still work even if your media’s filesystem has been severely damaged or re-formatted.

PhotoRec is free, this open source multi-platform application is distributed under GNU Public License. PhotoRec is a companion program to TestDisk, an app for recovering lost partitions on a wide variety of filesystems and making non-bootable disks bootable again. You can download them from this link.

For more safety, PhotoRec uses read-only access to handle the drive or memory support you are about to recover lost data from. Important: As soon as a pic or file is accidentally deleted, or you discover any missing, do NOT save any more pics or files to that memory device or hard disk drive; otherwise you may overwrite your lost data. This means that even using PhotoRec, you must not choose to write the recovered files to the same partition they were stored on.
PhotoRec runs under

* DOS/Win9x
* Windows NT 4/2000/XP/2003/Vista
* Linux
* FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD
* Sun Solaris
* Mac OS X

and can be compiled on almost every Unix system.
Photorec ignores the filesystem, this way it works even if the filesystem is severely damaged.

It can recover lost files at least from

* FAT,
* NTFS,
* EXT2/EXT3 filesystem
* HFS+

ReiserFS includes some special optimizations centered around tails, a name for files and end portions of files that are smaller than a filesystem block. In order to increase performance, ReiserFS is able to store files inside the b*tree leaf nodes themselves, rather than storing the data somewhere else on the disk and pointing to it. Unfortunately, PhotoRec isn’t able to deal with this, it’s why it doesn’t work well with ReiserFS.

Reply

6 Davi February 8, 2009 at 2:15 am

Thank you! It worked!
It is not very clear in the instructions, but “nixCraft” is not the name of the file, is something wrote in the beginning of the file…

Reply

7 Cullen Linn May 14, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Whew…that saved me some time. Very helpful, thank you!

Reply

8 hosney osman July 8, 2009 at 9:47 am

even i am using
# rm -rf /export/home/john
is there any command to recover this folder again

Reply

9 Frode November 16, 2009 at 9:27 am

Hi all,

I just had to recover a file from ext3 on Ubuntu, and used the utility ext3grep to do so.

It’s in the Ubuntu repositories, so install it before you need it:
sudo aptitude install ext3grep

And remember, if you are storing your backups encrypted, keep the password to the encrypted folder in a file SEPARATELY (not in the encrypted folder), so when you delete it, you can just restore it, rather than get that ‘sinking feeling’…
I was lucky, ext3grep worked for me – I had to follow the manual recovery examples on the ext3grep homepage, the auto recovery didn’t do it for me.

Best of luck to you!

Reply

10 mohit December 4, 2009 at 7:15 pm

my initrd file is deleted and my pc is not boot so how can i recover..?
please tell me m waiting for ur reply..
plz tell me commands..

Reply

11 Soren Frank February 7, 2010 at 8:12 pm

This saved my life. Got a very important source code file back, 100%. Would have taken me days to rewrite. Didn’t delete a file, but server/samba failed, and stored a file of size 0 on top of the file. Have seen it before. Thank you.

Reply

12 rajesh February 18, 2010 at 1:02 am

i am mistakely deleted bin files . how to recover the files in redhat linux

Reply

13 Vlad May 14, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Thanks, it was a life saver!

Reply

14 Bizim Oyun Sitesi June 1, 2010 at 11:48 am

Great information about linux recovery. But I couldn’t recover one of my files from ext4 on ubuntu 10.4. Is there any reason not to work ?

Thanks for reply.

Reply

15 g b viswanadh December 4, 2010 at 1:51 pm

sir,
how to recover the deleted files in linux in just 3 mints back, is this possible or not,
i think that concerened file of deleted file is to tb store in may i think some other location, i think upto system boot it will be stored in sysytem, and after deleted files where it will be goes to

Reply

16 Anantha kumar December 15, 2010 at 6:57 am

Sir,
we have used Red hat linux5 in my company…We have used php,mysql …
Problem is some of the .php as well as txt files are to be deleted…
how to recover that files..any 3rd party or free tool or recovery command is there…

pls tell me very very urgent….pls help me

Reply

17 dilip February 19, 2011 at 2:47 pm

By mistake I have run a command in CUI mode “rm -rf * text file”…and it deleted other files..
Don’tr know which file have been deleted
how can I check the deleted files?
Is there any command to recover that?
Kindly suggest…its urgent!!

Reply

18 abc August 9, 2011 at 12:37 pm

There is no scope of recovery of files

Reply

19 pinaki May 24, 2011 at 4:44 pm

hi,
i have mistakenly ran a comment “rm *” in the directory “/cust/scripts” which was having files of “.scr” extension. now i want to retrieve all the files. is there any way to retrieve the deleted files. pls help me out…..

Reply

20 javier October 21, 2011 at 3:08 pm

How to identify the partition in which the delete file operation occurred?
Can it be possible to just indicate a folder in which it was deleted?
Thanks,

Reply

21 msrao November 8, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Hi
using grep command, unnecessary data which matches with the given string will added in the output file. so i thing it is not good method to restore deleted files

Reply

22 klo January 6, 2012 at 4:35 am

Worked great for me on ext4

thanks for the tip

Reply

23 dave March 15, 2012 at 8:54 pm

THANK YOU! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU!!!!!

Reply

24 Juan Fernando Lopez June 21, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Thanks! I accidentally removed a .c file. This post helps me to recover! THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!!

Reply

25 ivan June 21, 2012 at 6:15 pm

this may be the stupidest advice ever offered for such a common occurence of recoviering an accidental deletion – whoever posted this nonsense should be ostricized as the village-idiot he or she obviously is

Reply

26 Tom F June 29, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Ivan;

This process would work fine for a small file that was deleted, like someone’s homework.

It is not a substitute for a backup and recovery plan.

If you would like a better plan, then make one. You could also dump on a daily the fs tree with the inodes table so that if you lose a file, at least you would know what blocks contain the data segments of your file to be able to recover it easier. That type of program is way beyond the scope of a simple one liner script as this shows.

Grow up

Reply

27 saiprakash February 1, 2013 at 10:18 am

Hi All,

I am using Redhat Linux 6, getting an error when users are able to login ‘-bash: /dev/null: permission denied’. Could you please help me in resolving. Only root is able to login. Also not able to use Vi editor.

Reply

28 Rakesh March 1, 2014 at 8:53 am

Sir,
by mistake i run the commond rm -rf * on my server and all files are deleted ,
can you please tell me the procedure how to recover all the data it’s very urgent for me and i am not able to logged in super user mode.
Thank you in advance.

Reply

29 Rati April 25, 2014 at 8:14 am

not possible

Reply

30 Shivam March 1, 2014 at 8:54 am

same question from my side as Rakesh discribe.
Thank you very much

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: