Section: Maintenance Commands (8)
Updated: November 2005
ntfsundelete - recover a deleted file from an NTFS volume.
has three modes of operation:
The default mode,
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
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
The utility has successfully displayed some Chinese pictogram filenames and then
correctly recovered them.
Extended MFT Records
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.
will not try and piece together such records. It will simply show unnamed files
Compressed and Encrypted Files
cannot recover compressed or encrypted files. When scanning for them, it will
display as being 0% recoverable.
The Recovered File's Size and Date
To recover a file
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
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 unexpected.
Below is a summary of all the options that
accepts. Nearly all options have two equivalent names. The short name is
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.
is equivalent to
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
option) is case-insensitive. This option makes the matching case-sensitive.
- -c, --copy RANGE
This wizard's option will write a block of MFT FILE records to a file. The
default file is
which will be created in the current directory. This option can be combined
- -d, --destination DIR
This option controls where to put the output file of the
- -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 one.
- -i, --inodes RANGE
Recover the files with these inode numbers.
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
- -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
- -P, --parent
Display the parent directory of a deleted file.
- -p, --percentage NUM
Filter the output of the
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
- -s, --scan
Search through an NTFS volume and print a list of files that could be recovered.
This is the default action of
This list can be filtered by filename, size, percentage recoverable or last
modification time, using the
The output of scan will be:
Inode Flags %age Date Time Size Filename
6038 FN.. 93% 2002-07-17 13:42 26629 thesis.doc
|N/R||(Non-)Resident data stream|
|C/E||Compressed/Encrypted data stream|
The percentage field shows how much of the file can potentially be recovered.
- -S, --size RANGE
Filter the output of the
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
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
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
mode. You can specify the files to be recovered using by using
options. This option can be combined with
When the file is recovered it will be given its original name, unless the
option is used.
- -v, --verbose
Increase the amount of output that
- -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
but currently no known bugs. If you find a bug please send an email describing
the problem to the development team:
was written by Richard Russon and Holger Ohmacht, with contributions from Anton
It was ported to ntfs-3g by Erik Larsson and Jean-Pierre Andre.
is part of the
package and is available from: