ntfsundelete - recover a deleted file from an NTFS volume.
has three modes of operation: scan
The default mode, scan
simply reads an NTFS Volume and looks for files
that have been deleted. Then it will print a list giving the inode number,
name and size.
mode takes the files either matching the regular expression
(option -m) or specified by the inode-expressions and recovers as much of the
data as possible. It saves the result to another location. Partly for safety,
but mostly because NTFS write support isn't finished.
This is a wizard's option. It will save a portion of the MFT to a file. This
probably only be useful when debugging ntfsundelete
only ever reads
from the NTFS Volume.
will never change the volume.
cannot perform the impossible.
When a file is deleted the MFT Record is marked as not in use and the bitmap
representing the disk usage is updated. If the power isn't turned off
immediately, the free space, where the file used to live, may become
overwritten. Worse, the MFT Record may be reused for another file. If this
happens it is impossible to tell where the file was on disk.
Even if all the clusters of a file are not in use, there is no guarantee that
they haven't been overwritten by some short-lived file.
In NTFS all the filenames are stored as Unicode. They will be converted into the
current locale for display by ntfsundelete
. The utility has
successfully displayed some Chinese pictogram filenames and then correctly
In rare circumstances, a single MFT Record will not be large enough to hold the
metadata describing a file (a file would have to be in hundreds of fragments
for this to happen). In these cases one MFT record may hold the filename, but
another will hold the information about the data. ntfsundelete
try and piece together such records. It will simply show unnamed files with
cannot recover compressed or encrypted files. When scanning
for them, it will display as being 0% recoverable.
To recover a file ntfsundelete
has to read the file's metadata.
Unfortunately, this isn't always intact. When a file is deleted, the metadata
can be left in an inconsistent state. e.g. the file size may be zero; the
dates of the file may be set to the time it was deleted, or random.
To be safe ntfsundelete
will pick the largest file size it finds and
write that to disk. It will also try and set the file's date to the last
modified date. This date may be the correct last modified date, or something
Below is a summary of all the options that ntfsundelete
all options have two equivalent names. The short name is preceded by -
and the long name is preceded by --
. Any single letter options, that
don't take an argument, can be combined into a single command, e.g. -fv
is equivalent to -f -v
. Long named options can be abbreviated to any
unique prefix of their name.
- -b, --byte NUM
- If any clusters of the file cannot be recovered, the
missing parts will be filled with this byte. The default is zeros.
- -C, --case
- When scanning an NTFS volume, any filename matching (using
the --match option) is case-insensitive. This option makes the
- -c, --copy RANGE
- This wizard's option will write a block of MFT FILE records
to a file. The default file is mft which will be created in the
current directory. This option can be combined with the --output
and --destination options.
- -d, --destination DIR
- This option controls where to put the output file of the
--undelete and --copy options.
- -f, --force
- This will override some sensible defaults, such as not
overwriting an existing file. Use this option with caution.
- -h, --help
- Show a list of options with a brief description of each
- -i, --inodes RANGE
- Recover the files with these inode numbers. RANGE
can be a single inode number, several numbers separated by commas
"," or a range separated by a dash "-".
- -m, --match PATTERN
- Filter the output by only looking for matching filenames.
The pattern can include the wildcards '?', match exactly one character or
'*', match zero or more characters. By default the matching is
case-insensitive. To make the search case sensitive, use the --case
- -O, --optimistic
- Recover parts of the file even if they are currently marked
as in use.
- -o, --output FILE
- Use this option to set name of output file that
--undelete or --copy will create.
- -P, --parent
- Display the parent directory of a deleted file.
- -p, --percentage NUM
- Filter the output of the --scan option, by only
matching files with a certain amount of recoverable content. Please
read the caveats section for more details.
- -q, --quiet
- Reduce the amount of output to a minimum. Naturally, it
doesn't make sense to combine this option with --scan.
- -s, --scan
- Search through an NTFS volume and print a list of files
that could be recovered. This is the default action of
ntfsundelete. This list can be filtered by filename, size,
percentage recoverable or last modification time, using the
--match, --size, --percent and --time options,
The output of scan will be:
Inode Flags %age Date Time Size Filename
6038 FN.. 93% 2002-07-17 13:42 26629 thesis.doc
||(Non-)Resident data stream
||Compressed/Encrypted data stream
The percentage field shows how much of the file can potentially be
- -S, --size RANGE
- Filter the output of the --scan option, by looking
for a particular range of file sizes. The range may be specified as two
numbers separated by a '-'. The sizes may be abbreviated using the
suffixes k, m, g, t, for kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes and terabytes
- -t, --time SINCE
- Filter the output of the --scan option. Only match
files that have been altered since this time. The time must be given as
number using a suffix of d, w, m, y for days, weeks, months or years
- -T, --truncate
- If ntfsundelete is confident about the size of a
deleted file, then it will restore the file to exactly that size. The
default behaviour is to round up the size to the nearest cluster (which
will be a multiple of 512 bytes).
- -u, --undelete
- Select undelete mode. You can specify the files to
be recovered using by using --match or --inodes options.
This option can be combined with --output, --destination,
When the file is recovered it will be given its original name, unless the
--output option is used.
- -v, --verbose
- Increase the amount of output that ntfsundelete
- -V, --version
- Show the version number, copyright and license for
Look for deleted files on /dev/hda1.
Look for deleted documents on /dev/hda1.
ntfsundelete /dev/hda1 -s -m '*.doc'
Look for deleted files between 5000 and 6000000 bytes, with at least 90% of the
data recoverable, on /dev/hda1.
ntfsundelete /dev/hda1 -S 5k-6m -p 90
Look for deleted files altered in the last two days
ntfsundelete /dev/hda1 -t 2d
Undelete inodes 2, 5 and 100 to 131 of device /dev/sda1
ntfsundelete /dev/sda1 -u -i 2,5,100-131
Undelete inode number 3689, call the file 'work.doc', set it to recovered size
and put it in the user's home directory.
ntfsundelete /dev/hda1 -u -T -i 3689 -o work.doc -d ~
Save MFT Records 3689 to 3690 to a file 'debug'
ntfsundelete /dev/hda1 -c 3689-3690 -o debug
There are some small limitations to ntfsundelete
, but currently no known
bugs. If you find a bug please send an email describing the problem to the
was written by Richard Russon and Holger Ohmacht, with
contributions from Anton Altaparmakov. It was ported to ntfs-3g by Erik
Larsson and Jean-Pierre Andre.
is part of the ntfs-3g
package and is available from: