NTFSUNDELETE(8) System Manager's Manual NTFSUNDELETE(8)
ntfsundelete - recover a deleted file from an NTFS volume.
ntfsundelete [options] device
ntfsundelete has three modes of operation: scan, undelete and copy.
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.
The undelete mode takes the files either matching the regular expres-
sion (option -m) or specified by the inode-expressions and recovers as
much of the data as possible. It saves the result to another loca-
tion. Partly for safety, but mostly because NTFS write support isn't
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
ntfsundelete only ever reads from the NTFS Volume. ntfsundelete will
never change the volume.
ntfsundelete 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 guaran-
tee that they haven't been overwritten by some short-lived file.
In NTFS all the filenames are stored as Unicode. They will be con-
verted into the current locale for display by ntfsundelete. The util-
ity 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 hun-
dreds 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 will not try and piece together such records. It
will simply show unnamed files with data.
Compressed and Encrypted Files
ntfsundelete cannot recover compressed or encrypted files. When scan-
ning for them, it will display as being 0% recoverable.
The Recovered File's Size and Date
To recover a file ntfsundelete has to read the file's metadata. Unfor-
tunately, this isn't always intact. When a file is deleted, the meta-
data 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
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 unexpected.
Below is a summary of all the options that ntfsundelete accepts.
Nearly all options have two equivalent names. The short name is pre-
ceded 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.
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 cur-
rent 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.
This will override some sensible defaults, such as not overwrit-
ing an existing file. Use this option with caution.
Show a list of options with a brief description of each one.
-i, --inodes RANGE
Recover the files with these inode numbers. RANGE can be a sin-
gle 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 charac-
ter or '*', match zero or more characters. By default the
matching is case-insensitive. To make the search case sensi-
tive, use the --case option.
Recover parts of the file even if they are currently marked as
-o, --output FILE
Use this option to set name of output file that --undelete or
--copy will create.
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.
Reduce the amount of output to a minimum. Naturally, it doesn't
make sense to combine this option with --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 recover-
able or last modification time, using the --match, --size,
--percent and --time options, respectively.
The output of scan will be:
Inode Flags %age Date Time Size Filename
6038 FN.. 93% 2002-07-17 13:42 26629 thesis.doc
|Flag Description |
|F/D File/Directory |
|N/R (Non-)Resident data stream |
|C/E Compressed/Encrypted data stream |
|! Missing attributes |
The percentage field shows how much of the file can potentially
-S, --size RANGE
Filter the output of the --scan option, by looking for a partic-
ular 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
-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
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).
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, and --byte.
When the file is recovered it will be given its original name,
unless the --output option is used.
Increase the amount of output that ntfsundelete prints.
Show the version number, copyright and license for ntfsundelete.
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 recov-
ered 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 development team:
ntfsundelete 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.
ntfsundelete is part of the ntfs-3g package and is available from:
ntfs-3g 2017.3.23 November 2005 NTFSUNDELETE(8)
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