How to Recover Deleted Files Using TestDisk in Linux

We all know the feeling of looking for a file and not finding it, even in the trash. The trauma that comes with file and data loss should end thanks to the TestDisk – is a free, open-source software that was initially designed for recovering memory partitions and making non-bootable disks bootable again. It is useful for recovering data from partitions that are caused by human errors or viruses.

In this article, we will show you how to recover deleted files in Linux using the TestDisk data recovery tool. To use testdisk, you must have TestDisk installed on your Linux system using our article: How to Install and Use TestDisk Data Recovery Tool in Linux.

Once you’ve TestDisk installed on your Linux, you can verify the version of testdisk using the command.

# testdisk --version
Sample Output
TestDisk 7.0, Data Recovery Utility, April 2015
Christophe GRENIER <[email protected]>
http://www.cgsecurity.org

Version: 7.0
Compiler: GCC 7.2
ext2fs lib: 1.44.1, ntfs lib: libntfs-3g, reiserfs lib: none, ewf lib: none, curses lib: ncurses 6.0
OS: Linux, kernel 4.15.0-55-generic (#60-Ubuntu SMP Tue Jul 2 18:22:20 UTC 2019) x86_64

Great! This confirms that we have successfully installed testdisk. Now proceed further to learn how to recover deleted files in Linux.

Step 1: Creating TestDisk Data Log File

To recover deleted files, first you need to create a testdisk.log file, as this log data is essential as it contains useful information for recovering your data later.

# testdisk
Create TestDisk Data Log File

Create TestDisk Data Log File

The utility description screen has three options mentioned in detail below:

Create

    • – the “

create

    ” option allows you to create a new log file.

  • Append – the option enables you to add extra information to the report from the previous sessions.
  • No log – choose the option when you don’t want to record logs for later use.

Note: The Testdisk utility tool is beginner-friendly; it offers suggestions to the options on each screen. Choose the recommended options (highlighted). Press up and arrow keys to switch between the different options.

Select the ‘Create’ option as we need to create a new log file. Depending on the system security, the computer might prompt for sudo password to proceed with the recovery.

Create New Log File

Create New Log File

Step 2: Choose Your Recovery Drive

Testdisk will then display the disks attached to your system. The system displays each drive’s total storage space and its free space. Choose the drive where your file is stored then use the right and left arrow keys to navigate and select ‘Proceed‘. Next, press the ENTER button. In this case, the drive is an external flash drive labelled /dev/sdb.

Select Recovery Drive

Select Recovery Drive

Depending on the security permissions, your system may not display some drives. For such cases, click the “Sudo option”, which is beside the Proceed and Quit options.

Open the Sudo and enter your password. After successful password verification, the system will display all attached drives with their specs.

Step 3: Selecting the Partition Table Type

After selecting your drive, the next task is to identify the correct partition table. For beginners, it can be hard to identify the correct partition table type but you need not worry about this. The system will automatically predict and highlight the best choice.

Select Partition Table

Select Partition Table

Next, click ‘ENTER‘ to continue.

After indicating the correct drive and the partition type, the next screen window displays a list of recovery options. You can select any of the options from the screen depending on your preferences. Because we are recovering a deleted file, we will select the ‘Advanced’ option.

Advance File Recovery Options

Advance File Recovery Options

Step 4: Select the Deleted File Source Drive Partition

The screen in our picture allows you to choose the partition if your computer has many. Select your choice and hit ‘ENTER‘ to proceed. In this case, I’m using a removable flash drive with only 1 FAT32 partition.

Select Deleted File Partition

Select Deleted File Partition

Step 5: Check the Deleted File Source Directory

After the utility displays the system directories for all partitions, navigate to the specific directory you lost or deleted your file. For instance, if your file was saved in the “Documents” file, navigate to the Documents tab.

Select Deleted Source Directory

Select Deleted Source Directory

Tip: use the “back” arrow to navigate back to where you lost your files.

After navigating to the source directory, you will find the deleted files highlighted in red. Browse your file from the drop-down list and highlight or check it.

Step 6: Restore Deleted File in Linux

Copy the file you want to restore by pressing the letter c on your keyboard. In the previous image, the deleted file that I want to restore is called Best Password Practices.docx.

To copy the file, simply press the letter c on the keyboard.

Step 7: Paste the Recovered File to Directory

Testdisk utility will then display a list of locations that you can paste your copied file in order to recover it. Again, select the destination by scrolling and just like before, press C to paste it. In this case, the file is copied into the Public directory.

Recover Deleted File in Linux

Recover Deleted File in Linux

If all went well, you should get a notification below that the files were successfully copied.

Recovered Deleted File

Recovered Deleted File

To exit from Testdisk utility, select Quit, and press ENTER. This will take you back to the previous screen. Select Quit and press ENTER. Again, this takes you back and just like before, select Quit and press ENTER to exit completely from TestDisk.

And that’s how you can recover a deleted file in Linux using the testdisk utility tool. If you ever accidentally delete a file on your system, don’t panic, testdisk will come to your rescue.

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James Kiarie

This is James, a certified Linux administrator and a tech enthusiast who loves keeping in touch with emerging trends in the tech world. When I'm not running commands on the terminal, I'm taking listening to some cool music. taking a casual stroll or watching a nice movie.

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4 Responses

  1. Bill says:

    Ok James, I think I finally figured out that after clicking on the Advanced option, I then had to select the proper partition of the hard drive, then choose the directory of the partition, where the deleted file was located.

    As part of my test, I did delete a file, but when I go to the directory where that deleted file was located, Testdisk does not show the deleted file and no file is highlighted in red.

    Any ideas on what I am doing wrong, here? Thanks.

  2. Bill says:

    In Step 3, when I choose the Advanced option, the next screen only has an option the create an Image. There are no other options to recover a file from any directory.

    This problem occurs on both of my notebook computers. One has Mint 18 and dual boots with Windows and the other computer has Mint 18 and dual boots with Windows.

    Any idea what I am doing wrong?

    Thanks!

    • James Kiarie says:

      Hey Bill, Have you tried Steps 1 and 2 successfully? If yes, Kindly paste the output you are getting upon pressing the ‘Advanced‘ option. Basically, pressing the ‘Advanced‘ option should take you to the drive you want to recover the file from.

  3. dragonmouth says:

    “It is useful for recovering data from partitions that are caused by human errors or viruses.”
    Partitions are not caused by human errors or viruses. They are set up by humans for a purpose. Shouldn’t that rather read “…deleted by…”?

    According to the Recovered Deleted File screen, the copy failed. The resulting bit is “0”, not “1”.

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