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How to Use TestDisk to Recover Lost or Deleted Partitions

With TestDisk, you can 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/ext4 Backup SuperBlock, undelete files from FAT, exFAT, NTFS and ext2 filesystem, and copy files from deleted FAT, exFAT, NTFS and ext2/ext3/ext4 partitions. Available for Microsoft Windows, Apple MAC and Linux, it can find lost partitions from many file systems and all media (hard disk, USB, smart card). This is a complete guide on how to use TestDisk for quick search and even deeper search to recover lost of deleted partitions from hard disks.

TestDisk by cgsecurity is the popular choice, to recover lost partitions and it has features for both novices and experts. You will have to run TestDisk on another computer and attach concerned hard drive with that system. You can also use a live rescue CD or USB to boot from, to recover lost partitions. Scan that hard disk and TestDisk will present you with the lost partitions. It also has a deep scan mode (deeper search) if it can not find the partitions in normal mode.

How to Use TestDisk – Normal Recovery:

Normal search and recovery is for lost partition that was just lost and was not over written. If we have lost partition and we have some unallocated space in hard drive, in this case TestDisk quick search will be enough to find that partition. Later on you just recover it by marking it logical and selecting it for recovery.

Above images were created on Microsoft Windows 7 that has a healthy hard disk.

  • Attach the hard disk that has lost partitions to your computer.
  • Run TestDisk.
  • Hit Enter on Create.
  • Select the drive that has lost partitions.
  • Hit Enter on Proceed.
  • Select the partition table type that you want to recover and hit Enter. In our case it is Intel/PC Partitionbecause we want to recover NTFS partitions. TestDisk will select appropriate partition table type already.
  • Hit Analyze (Analyze lost partitions).
  • Hit Enter on Quick Search.
  • It will find lost partitions and display.
  • Hit Enter to continue.
  • Next it will ask for deeper search. If it has already found the lost partitions then no need to do deeper search.
  • Select Write and hit Enter.
  • Confirm partition table to write by typing Y.
  • Hit Enter on OK.
  • Select Quit and hit Enter.
  • Reboot system for changes to take effect.

After the reboot your lost partitions will be recovered. Following is the video tutorial of how TestDisk works.

Partition Recovery on Microsoft Windows:

Deeper Search is different. In case lost partition was over written by another partition, then we have to use deeper search. It will take time. For 500 GB hard disk, it will take approximately 2 and half hours to scan sector by sector for lost partitions. After that it will present lost partitions. You have to mark the partitions (by using arrow keys – mark them logical) that you want to recover. Those marked partitions will be selected and you will be able to write those to disk in next step. This step is tricky. You can encounter errors in this area as:

  • Partition can not be recovered.
  • The hard disk seems too small. Check the hard disk size, HD jumpers or BIOS detection.
  • Invalid partition structure.  

Above images were created on hard disk containing Ubuntu by running a live rescue USB drive (SystemRescueCD containing TestDisk). Mission was to run TestDisk from live rescue bootable USB to try and recover lost partitions (NTFS > Work, NTFS > Entertainment). Mission was not successful during quick search. Deeper search showed lost partitions but could not recover.

Updated on March 19, 2018

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