How to Recover Lost or Deleted Partitions

Here I will describe how to recover lost or deleted partitions with a cool tool called TestDisk that I recently found with which

I successfully restored my own broken partition. The tool is OpenSource and is licensed under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL).

Symptoms and problem description
You are not able to boot your hard drive because the partition is damaged or deleted and you want to recover all your files.

Multiple recover options
There are a few ways to fix the problem since it depends on your specific situation and what options we have available.

If your lost partition is on a second drive that is also plugged in, like it was in my case, or you have a working partition on your hard drive that you can boot normally (while the damaged/deleted partition is on the same drive) , then read Recover partition from a booted working partition.

It is very possible that your only partition that you used to boot became corrupted and you don’t have a second working hard drive available. In that case you can use a Live CD by following the steps described in the part Recover partition by a Live CD.

Recover partition from a booted working partition
Your best way to recovery is from an already booted OS (Windows/Linux/Mac). You can download TestDisk from here. In the following description I will use TestDisk version 6.11.3 and show the recovery steps that may include some Windows specific details. This should be analogous to other versions and OS’es.

  1. After you have extracted the downloaded file, run TestDisk from your extracted testdisk folder (win/testdisk_win.exe).
  2. Now follow the TestDisk Step by Step instructions that are described on the TestDisk wiki page.

Recover partition by a Live CD
You might not be able to boot anything since you don’t have another working partition. In that case you can use a Live CD that will basically boot in memory after which you can start TestDisk without having to boot an operating system. Hence:

  1. Download and then burn the TestDisk Live CD on an empty CD, insert it in your machine and boot from it. *
  2. Now you can basically follow the same TestDisk Step by Step instructions as if booted from an OS.

* Note that you have to setup your BIOS such that your first boot option is your CD/DVD drive. In case your first boot option is your hard drive, the Live CD will not boot up!

Keep in mind
Keep also in mind that you have to be careful when performing the above described operations. Don’t overwrite or fully format the partition if you want to be able to recover your partition and files. Also note that there may be various situations that you can encounter that are not covered by this tutoriol, and hence I cannot be held responsible for any consequences that might occur after you decide to use the tool. It should not get dramatic, but keep in mind anyway that you use it at your own risk.

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