Monday, April 27, 2009

TestDisk, a cross platform data recovery software

testdisklogo TestDisk is not the usual kind of data recovery software you come across everyday. It’s lack of a graphical interface and pretty previews of ‘found’ files might shun users away, but those who know better will find that TestDisk is a seriously powerful data recovery tool that is capable of recovering lost data from any partition under any operating system.

TestDisk can help recover lost partitions and make non-booting disks bootable again when these symptoms are caused by faulty software, certain types of viruses or human error such as accidentally deleting a Partition Table. It’s most powerful feature is it’s cross platform support. TestDisk can run under:

  • DOS
  • Windows (NT4, 2000, XP, 2003, Vista)
  • Linux
  • FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD
  • SunOS
  • MacOS

What TestDisk can do?

  • Fix partition table, recover deleted partition
  • Recover FAT32 boot sector from its backup
  • Rebuild FAT12/FAT16/FAT32 boot sector
  • Fix FAT tables
  • Rebuild NTFS boot sector
  • Recover NTFS boot sector from its backup
  • Fix MFT using MFT mirror
  • Locate ext2/ext3 Backup SuperBlock
  • Undelete files from FAT, NTFS and ext2 filesystem
  • Copy files from deleted FAT, NTFS and ext2/ext3 partitions.

TestDisk can find lost partitions for all of these file systems

  • BeFS ( BeOS )
  • BSD disklabel ( FreeBSD/OpenBSD/NetBSD )
  • CramFS, Compressed File System
  • DOS/Windows FAT12, FAT16 and FAT32
  • Windows exFAT
  • HFS, HFS+ and HFSX, Hierarchical File System
  • JFS, IBM's Journaled File System
  • Linux ext2 and ext3
  • Linux LUKS encrypted partition
  • Linux RAID md 0.9/1.0/1.1/1.2 (RAID 1,4,5,6)
  • Linux Swap (versions 1 and 2)
  • LVM and LVM2, Linux Logical Volume Manager
  • Mac partition map
  • Novell Storage Services NSS
  • NTFS ( Windows NT/2000/XP/2003/Vista/2008 )
  • ReiserFS 3.5, 3.6 and 4
  • Sun Solaris i386 disklabel
  • Unix File System UFS and UFS2 (Sun/BSD/...)
  • XFS, SGI's Journaled File System

Did it miss anything? I guess not. And if it did, just ask them to include support or help yourself because it’s open source.


As I mentioned, TestDisk doesn’t have a GUI, it’s all command line based. But you don’t have to type commands. Simply select the various options using the arrow keys and press Enter to execute them. So yes, it does have an interface, it’s just not graphical.

Unlike most other data recovery tools, you can’t preview the files recovered or selectively recover files. It will extract all files recovered and save it in a directory. TestDisk comes bundled with another tool called Photorec which is essentially the same tool but designed to recover only images. So if you want to recover only image files, you will use Photorec and not TestDisk and save time.


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