We have many questions about how to recover a whole partition. Typically it's an NTFS partition, destroyed by telling Ubiquity to install Ubuntu using the entire disk instead of alongside other operating systems.

We should have just one--others should be closed as duplicates. However, we don't seem to currently have any canonical or obviously best question for this. We don't even seem to have a question with answers that really explain how to attempt recovery. Some say what programs can be used. Some link to good resources. As far as I can find, none of the partition recovery questions on Ask Ubuntu contain answers even approaching the quality of the oft-cited Ubuntu wiki page:

That guide is excellent; I frequently recommend it and I think everyone who wants to use Ubuntu to recover data (or who is an Ubuntu user who needs to recover data) should read it. Twice. I think answers to data recovery questions should almost always link to that page. But I also think we should have a comprehensively answered partition recovery question, because:

  1. We have a lot of questions for this. They should get duped to something. The thing they're duped to should be a good resource. Or at least an excellent portal to other resources.

  2. While excellent, that wiki page is quite dated. It says, "This guides [sic] applies to Ubuntu 7.04, 7.10 and 8.04." While the methods it outlines still work, that doesn't inspire confidence in in panicked users. And it occurs to me that there might even be more useful information about data recovery; or some newer, better tools; or newer versions of the same tools that are different in some way meriting mention.

    Of course, that wiki page could itself be updated. That would be fine too. Then we could have a canonical answer summarizing it (and linking to it for reference).

  3. That article is an overview of data recovery. We have many questions that are specifically about how to recover a partition that has been deleted or overwritten. This is a narrower situation, and it should be possible to answer it specifically.

I'm not sure if the best course is to pick one of the existing partition recovery questions here and start posting answers with the aim of creating a canonical reference ...or if a new question should be asked for this purpose.

Which should we do?

If we pick one that already exists, which should we pick?

How should we get a good answer?

  • Should someone (I?) offer a big bounty?
  • Should someone (I?) just write it themselves? (It could then be edited and improved, of course.)
  • Should we copy-and-paste the relevant sections from DataRecovery? It's licensed CC-BY-SA 3.0, just like user content here, and thus can be republished here with or without modification (so long as proper attribution is given, of course).

Here's a list of partition recovery questions I've found on Ask Ubuntu:

This list is probably incomplete; please feel free to edit this meta question to add to it. However, please keep in mind that not all questions about partition recovery can reasonably be duped to a general canonical question on partition recovery. For example, a question about how to recover a Windows partition after installing Ubuntu using the entire disk should be listed here. A question about recovering a partition just deleted in GParted could even be listed here. A question about how to figure out how well partition recovery worked after being performed (we have at least one of those) should not be listed here, although it might end up duped to a canonical question if the canonical question includes good material on that issue.

  • 1
    Oh.. This is what I had posted in the Regulator's Chat Room a few days ago. We should certainly do something about it. – Aditya Apr 13 '13 at 9:54
  • A... Canonical one, you say? – cat Apr 26 '16 at 20:53
  • Here's one that didn't exist when you asked this: askubuntu.com/questions/463076/… which might make a good start on a canonical answer as the first steps insure we are working on a copy rather than the drive with lost data. – Elder Geek Apr 28 '16 at 22:41
up vote 12 down vote accepted

Good you brought this topic to attention. It is true, we do not have a good canonical question/answer for data recovery but quite a lot of questions on that. So yes, we do need a canonical answer here.

So now here are my thoughts why we may have not done this yet, and what needs to be taken into account when we plan to:

  • Data recovery is a wide field where individual issues need to be addressed to avoid data loss.
  • These individual issues can not easily be answered to be generally applicable.
  • There already are good places to direct people to such as the Ubuntu Data Recovery Wiki.
  • A canonical answer should include different methods, but each method may have lengthy procedures. This would inevitably lead to lengthy answers eventually being tedious to go through for people in need of data recovery.

So speaking of me, I deliberately did not give a step by step guide on how to recover data with Testdisk (the only tool I have experience with). After I had started making nice screenshots of a simulated recovery in a VM I realized that there are simply too many steps involved, too many issues to be addressed to fit into a good (i.e. not too cluttered and most important safe) answer.

In addition it would have meant reinventing the wheel as there is such a concise and complete wiki maintained by the makers of TestDisk and PhotoRec. I therefore decided that it is much better to direct people to this site than to try and give an own guide.

But what I would love to see is a canonical question with answers biased by votes to point to different methods, command line, and GUI for people to quickly find the appropriate guides needed to successfully recover their data. In answers to such a question we then could also address procedures that hold true for all methods (e.g. not to use the drive, or how to back up to recover from an image).

I can see room for several questions and answers:

A: Software. Sure, this is a moving target, but softwarerecs doesn't work. This answer should distinguish between programs that attempt to recover data, and ones that try to rebuild the partition table. Splitting the answers between platforms -- Mac, BSD, Linux, Windows

B: Hints. This is a set of answers about signature values that can be searched for with a disk editor to try to determine the original layout of the disk. E.g. is the first sector of an HFSJ+ partition unique?

C: Resources. Links to other web pages that may help.

Also, this is not just a linux question, but is common to many operating systems. Such a canonical set of answers should be on an exchange that spans operating systems. Superuser?

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