Linux recover deleted files with lsof command – howto

Posted on in Categories Backup, Data recovery, Linux, RedHat/Fedora Linux, Suse Linux, Ubuntu Linux last updated November 17, 2006

Almost 2 years back I wrote about recovering deleted text file with grep command under UNIX or Linux.

Michael Stutz shows us how to recover deleted files using lsof command.

From the article:
There you are, happily playing around with an audio file you’ve spent all afternoon tweaking, and you’re thinking, “Wow, doesn’t it sound great? Lemme just move it over here.” At that point your subconscious chimes in, “Um, you meant mv, not rm, right?” Oops. I feel your pain — this happens to everyone. But there’s a straightforward method to recover your lost file, and since it works on every standard Linux system, everyone ought to know how to do it.

Briefly, a file as it appears somewhere on a Linux filesystem is actually just a link to an inode, which contains all of the file’s properties, such as permissions and ownership, as well as the addresses of the data blocks where the file’s content is stored on disk. When you rm a file, you’re removing the link that points to its inode, but not the inode itself; other processes (such as your audio player) might still have it open. It’s only after they’re through and all links are removed that an inode and the data blocks it pointed to are made available for writing.

This delay is your key to a quick and happy recovery: if a process still has the file open, the data’s there somewhere, even though according to the directory listing the file already appears to be gone.

Read more at Linux.com

However recovering files under Linux is still hard work for new admins. I highly recommend backing up files regularly and storing backup offsite.

Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. He has worked with global clients and in various industries, including IT, education, defense and space research, and the nonprofit sector. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+.

32 comment

  1. Hi Guys,
    Accidentaly I deleted all of my folders using
    rm -rf *
    It contained some important data. I need those
    data back.Can any body help me in this regard.

    Thanks in advance,
    Manoj.

  2. System->Administration->Software Sources. From the terminal I installed Foremost:
    sudo apt-get install foremost

    You need to know your target partition’s path to recover from it. I simply started System-Administration->Partition Editor and saw the the home partition is /dev/sda1.

    Let’s recover some JPEG images:
    sudo foremost -t jpeg -i /dev/sda1

    This command causes Foremost to create a directory called output and put every file it can recover in. This could take a while.

  3. Hi,
    I just managed to recover a script, that was still running in an endless loop, but I deleted the File:
    ./doit &
    rm doit
    lsof | grep doit (you get the PID, you get the INUM also, but that did not help)
    cat /proc//fd/255 (outputs the script)

  4. I have moved files from a directory to a computer on the network and have since discovered that the drive they were moved to is bad. It is my sense that moving and deleting are largely the same process, is there a best way to recover the files from the directory they were moved from? THANKS! -jim-

  5. Hi.
    Like some other people I did something very stupid.
    I deleted my home directory using the following command:
    userdel -r pedro

    After I read your article I approached the problem in the following way:
    lsof | grep /home/pedro

    I receive a four line answer:
    bash 4414 root cwd DIR 8,2 0 8085505 /home/pedro (deleted)
    lsof 5650 root cwd DIR 8,2 0 8085505 /home/pedro (deleted)
    grep 5651 root cwd DIR 8,2 0 8085505 /home/pedro (deleted)
    lsof 5652 root cwd DIR 8,2 0 8085505 /home/pedro (deleted)

    Is there any possibility to recover the whole directory by setting some values manually.
    Please write back,
    Pedro

  6. Hello all,
    All the files in my directory has been accidentally deleted on an SGI server using the rm -r command. None of the files are backed up. Please, can anyone help me out with possibility of recovering my files? It will highly be appreciated and acknowledged. Thanks.

  7. Hi Guys,
    Accidentaly I deleted all of my file using
    rm -rf *
    It contained some important data. I need those
    data back.Can any body help me in this regard.

    Thanks in advance,
    Madhukar kumar.

  8. Hi
    Accidentaly I deleted all of my folders using
    rm -rf * in suse linux9 environment
    It contained some important data. I need those
    data back.Can any body help me in this regard.

    Thanks in advance,
    sai.

  9. Hi Guys,
    Accidentaly I deleted all of my folders using
    rm -rf ~/
    It contained some important data. I need those
    data back.Can any body help me in this regard.

    Thanks in advance,
    Kailash Suthar

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