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Recover files using Puppy Linux, page 2

How to use Puppy Linux for recovering files from unbootable Windows XP, Vista, 7 or 8 hard disks

By . Last modified: 2013-02-19.

Page 1 of the article describes how to download Puppy Linux, create a bootable CD/DVD or USB drive and how to start your computer from the media.

Mounting drives and partitions in Puppy Linux

Puppy Linux 5 looks pretty nice, despite being optimized for reasonable performance on older machines.

One quick note to those not accustomed to Linux - most items open with just one mouse click, not double-click.

By now you should have noticed icons on the bottom left of Desktop, just above the menu button. These are your floppy (FDD) drives, partitions on local hard disks and CD/DVD device(s). Floppy discs start with "fd", partitions on local hard disks start with "sd" and CD/DVD devices start with "sr". Each one has a partition number. This is the way Linux distinguishes between different devices - so if you have one hard disk with two partitions, they would be named "sda1" and "sda2" - "a" for the first physical hard disk and "1" and "2" for the partitions on it. If you have two hard disks, both containing one partition, they would be called "sda1" and "sdb1". If you have just one hard disk with one partition, there will be only one icon - "sda1".
Left lower part of Puppy Linux Desktop, list of available floppy devices, local hard disks and CD/DVD drives.

To distinguish easily between different hard disks and partitions, hover your mouse over an icon and check out the partition's filesystem type and size.
Puppy Linux Desktop, list of available drives. To distinguish between available drives, stop mouse pointer over an icon and see the drive's filesystem type and size.

Many Windows Vista, 7 and 8 installations have a special recovery partition with size around 100 MB or 350 MB. If you have such partition, there is no need to use it. Your files and settings are on sda2 or sda3 in such case.
Puppy Linux Desktop, list of available drives. Many Windows Vista, 7 and 8 installations have a special 100MB or 350MB recovery partition that is not necessary while using Puppy Linux.

In Puppy Linux you have to mount a disk first to start using it. To do that, click on some icon starting with "sd" - "sda1", for example. After a few seconds, contents of the disk will open in new window.
Puppy Linux, partition contents window will open after mounting. Note that Linux puts all mounted partitions in a special folder named mnt.

As Linux does not use different drive letters, such as "C:" or "D:" to distinguish between disks, all mounted disks will be put in a special folder named "mnt", short for "mount". You can see that from the picture above - the sda2 partition mounted appears as /mnt/sda2 in Puppy Linux.

On Desktop you will see a green ring on a mounted partition icon. I have also connected my USB flash drive and this has been named "sdd1". Why not "sdb1"? Because it is a removable flash drive, not a hard disk. Linux essentials! Wink
Puppy Linux, green ring on a partition icon means that the partition has been mounted.

Connect your USB flash drive or external hard disk and wait for the icon to appear on Desktop. Then click its icon to mount it. Please note the name of the mounted drive, such as "sdd1" or "sdb1", you will need it soon.
Do not close the mounted drive windows yet. If you have to, just click the mounted drive icon on Desktop and the contents will open again.

Running a basic disk check on partitions in Puppy Linux

In case you just want to run a disk check to see if Windows is able to boot after this, make sure none of the partitions is mounted - you cannot run a check on a mounted disk. If one is, click to open Mount on the top left of Desktop.
Puppy Linux, Desktop. Mount allows to mount and unmount disks and partitions.

Then click the Unmount button for the disk or partition you want to check. Verify that the green ring disappears from the drive icon on Desktop.
Puppy Linux, Pmount. To allow drive checking, click Unmount to release the partition.

Exit Pmount by clicking the Quit button.

Now launch Console from the top row of Desktop. One click, not double-click!
Puppy Linux, Desktop. To check a partition, click Console.

Now type ntfsfix /dev/sda<number> where <number> is the partition you want to check. For example, ntfsfix /dev/sda1 or ntfsfix /dev/sda2. Press ENTER key to launch the check. Please make sure you are using only lowercase letters in the command, as in Linux "ntfsfix" does not equal "Ntfsfix" and "/dev/sda1" does not equal "/Dev/sda1" - Linux is very case-sensitive. Smile
The actual check takes normally very little time because ntfsfix is nothing as thorough as Windows' Check Disk. Do not expect it to fix everything!
Puppy Linux, Console. To check the first partition, type ntfsfix /dev/sda1. Then press Enter to run the diagnostics.

In case you see an error message stating "Refusing to operate on read-write mounted device" instead, the partition is still mounted and you must unmount it first.
Puppy Linux, Console, ntfsfix. Refusing to operate on read-write mounted device means that you must unmount the partition before running the check.

If you have more than one partition, run ntfsfix on these, too. To finish and close Console, type exit and press ENTER.

Now you can try booting Windows again to see if the problem was fixed. Please be aware that ntfsfix also forces a full Windows disk check on the partition(s) you checked. This might take a long time to complete, but it will probably repair all remaining errors. Windows might reboot and repeat the disk check by itself - this is normal and you should not interfere.
If you suspect that your computer has stopped responding during Windows disk check, verify that hard drive activity indicator on your PC is blinking or constantly on. If it is completely off for more than five minutes, Windows is still unable to boot and you should boot back into Puppy Linux to recover your files.

Copying your files to external hard disk or USB flash drive

Return to mounted partition contents window and click Documents and Settings (for Windows XP disk) or Users (for Windows Vista, 7 or 8 disk) folder. Please note that you need to click only once to open a folder. If you need to go back in folder contents, click the green up arrow on toolbar.

Here are contents of a typical Users folder. You can always ignore folders named "Default User", "Default" and "All Users".
In the example below, there is just one user - Mirjam.
If you use Shared/Public Documents (the files shared between different users on one computer), then you can find these in All Users (Windows XP) or Public folder.
In case a folder has an overlay icon with arrow pointing to left, it is just a link for backwards compatibility - copying these folders is never needed.
Puppy Linux, contents of Users folder on mounted Windows Vista hard disk. Click your user name to see and copy your personal files. Public documents are in Public folder.

Click on a user's folder to see its contents.

Here are the most important folders you need to copy to your USB drive.

For Windows XP:

  • Desktop - all items on your Windows XP Desktop (icons, files, folders, etc)
  • Favorites - your Internet Explorer favorites
  • My Documents - contents of your My Documents folder (in All Users, or Shared Documents this is called just "Documents") - your documents, pictures, videos, etc
  • Templates - only if you use Microsoft Office and you have created special templates for documents

For Windows Vista, 7 and 8 (do not copy folders that have an icon of arrow pointing to left - these are compatibility links, not real folders!):

  • Contacts - only necessary if Windows Mail or Windows Live Mail has stored contact data
  • Desktop - all items on your Windows Desktop (icons, files, folders, etc)
  • Documents - contents of your My Documents folder (note that in Windows Vista, 7 and 8 this does not include My Pictures, My Music and My Videos folders - these are just shortcuts for Windows XP backwards compatibility!)
  • Downloads - files downloaded from the Internet
  • Favorites - your Internet Explorer favorites
  • Music - your music files (mp3-s, wma-s, etc)
  • Pictures - your photos and pictures
  • Saved Games - only necessary if you have saved some state in Windows games (e.g. Solitaire)
  • Searches - only necessary if you have saved some search criteria
  • Templates - only necessary if you use Microsoft Office and you have created special templates for documents
  • Videos - your video files

If you want to recover your account picture in Windows 8, you should also copy the AccountPictures folder from Public folder.
In case you've created custom Libraries or changed default ones, you might want to copy Library folder from AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Libraries folder.

Please note that you do not need to copy any folder that has a link mark (arrow up and left) on it - these are just compatibility shortcuts to other folders!
If the contents are organized with huge spaces between items, click the Show extra details button on Toolbar to use list view.
Puppy Linux, contents of a user's folder. Most important ones are Desktop, Downloads, Music, Saved Games, Documents, Favorites, Pictures and Videos. If you use Microsoft Office, your templates might be in Templates folder.

To determine disk space needed for copying a folder, right-click the folder, select Dir '<folder name>' and click Properties. Or use arrow keys on keyboard to move to the folder, press Space to select the item and then use keyboard shortcut Ctrl+P.
Puppy Linux, to see folder size, right-click on the folder, select Dir 'folder name' and click Properties.

Wait until folder size is calculated in Size: field. Here, "K" means kilobytes, "M" means megabytes, and "G" means gigabytes.
To close folder properties, click the black X in the right side of Title Bar or click Close button.
Puppy Linux, folder size is displayed in Size field of folder properties window.

To see disk space available on your flash drive or external hard disk, click mount on the top left of Desktop.
Puppy Linux, Desktop. To check available disk space on a mounted disk, click the "mount" icon.

This opens a program named Pmount. Click the usbdrv tab and check the free space size for your USB flash drive or hard disk. Again, "K" means kilobytes, "M" means megabytes and "G" means gigabytes.
Close Pmount by clicking the Quit button.
Puppy Linux, Pmount. To see free space on a mounted USB drive, click the usbdrv tab and see the free space amount.

In case you have sufficent free space on the external USB drive, it is recommended to copy the whole user folder to it (for example, the whole folder Mirjam in Users folder, not just Documents or Desktop) - this way knowledgeable IT people might be able to recover your e-mails, program settings, etc.

First, you might want to create a separate folder on the external disk. Open its contents, right-click on a blank space and select Directory from the New menu.
Puppy Linux, folder right-click menu. To create a new folder, click Directory in the New menu.

Type a name for the folder in the end of the line, preserving the /mnt/sd<number>/ part.
Then click Create.
Puppy Linux, Create dialog. To create a new folder, type its name in the end of the line. Then click Create.

To copy just one folder to your flash drive or external hard disk, right-click on the folder, select Dir '<folder name>' and then click Copy...
Puppy Linux, folder copying. To copy a folder to an external USB drive, right-click on the desired folder, select Dir 'folder name' and then click Copy.

Type the path to your USB flash drive or external hard disk (see the icons on Desktop), for example "/mnt/sdd1/rescue/" or "/mnt/sdb1/" and click Copy. Don't forget the slashes in the beginning and in the end!
Please remember that in Linux everything is case-sensitive, so "sdd1" does not equal "Sdd1" or "SDD1" or "sDd1". Use only lowercase letters here!
Puppy Linux, folder copying. Type the path to your mounted external hard drive or USB flash disk and click Copy.

The copy dialog will open and it will list all files copied. Wait until the copy process is complete.
Puppy Linux, file copy dialog. All files copied will be listed here. Please wait until the copying process is complete.

Please remember to copy all sub-folders named Desktop, (My) Documents, Downloads, Favorites, Music, Pictures, Saved Games, Searches, Templates and Videos, not just one of them!

To copy multiple folders or files at once, open hard disk contents in one window and removable drive contents in another window. Then select files and folders you want to copy - keyboard shortcut CTRL+A selects all items; holding down CTRL key while clicking an item selects or deselects it.
Then hold down the left button of your mouse and just drag the selected items to the window of external disk. Mouse pointer turns into a document icon with + sign.
Puppy Linux, copying multiple items. Select the items you need, click and hold left button of mouse and drag the selected items into the window of external disk.

A dialog opens, asking whether you want to copy or move items. Always click Copy here - moving is a very bad idea, and linking has no effect whatsoever after shutting down Puppy Linux.
Puppy Linux, copying multiple items. Click Copy to send the selected files or folders to external drive.

After copying all necessary folders for every user (and possibly also folder named "All Users" or "Public" plus all custom folders you might have created outside Users folder) to the external disk there is one more very important step to take - copying Windows registry. This one helps IT specialists restore all Windows and programs' settings.
Navigate to Windows folder (or the folder containing Windows installation) and open System32 folder. The latter one might take several minutes to finish listing all items in it. Then locate the config folder and copy it to external drive.
Puppy Linux, copying Windows registry. Open Windows folder and then System32 folder. Copy folder named config to external drive.

Now the file rescuing part is done. Click Menu button on Puppy Linux Taskbar. Select Shutdown and click Power-off computer to shut down your computer.
Puppy Linux, to shut down your computer after file copying, click the Menu button on Taskbar. Then select Shutdown and click Power-off computer.

As you ran Puppy Linux in LiveCD mode, it will ask whether you want to save your session settings on a flash drive. You do not need to do that. Press arrow left key on your keyboard once to select Do Not Save. Then press Enter key on your keyboard.
Puppy Linux, before shutting down your computer you are offered to save changes to documents and settings. You do not need to do that, use arrow right key to select Do Not Save. Then press Enter key to confirm.

Puppy Linux will then shut down your computer. After reinstalling Windows you can copy the files and folders back to your computer and set up regular backups to avoid such problems in the future.


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