Recovering Windows files with a Ubuntu CD II: getting your files

Continued from Recovering Windows files with a Ubuntu CD I: the backstory

Booting up the live CD
Once you have your Ubuntu CD (or DVD), place it in your CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive and boot your computer (yes, even if Windows won’t boot—Ubuntu’s functionality doesn’t depend on Windows, so don’t worry). If the CD doesn’t boot, you may have enable the BIOS to boot from CD. There’s usually a key you can press during boot-up to bring up a boot menu and choose to boot from CD. The key itself varies from computer to computer. On some computers, the key is Delete. On others, it’s F2 or F9. On still others, it’s Escape.

Starting the live session

The first thing the live CD will ask you is what language you want to use. Select English or whatever language you think is most appropriate.

From the boot menu, select Try Ubuntu without any change to your computer and hit Enter.

Wait for Ubuntu to load up. This could take several minutes.

Click on the Places menu and select your hard drive. It won’t be called C: or D:. It’ll likely be labeled by the size of the drive. In this screenshot, my Windows drive is 8.7 GB, so I’m going to click on that in order to make it accessible (since the live CD won’t affect the hard drive unless I explicitly ask it to).

You should be able to see the Windows drive as an icon on the desktop now. Double-click that icon to open it (just as you would double-click on My Computer in Windows). Then go to Documents and Settings (Windows XP) or Users (Windows 7).

Double-click on the username of the user you want to recover files from.

Then find the folder you want the files from. In this example, I’m going to My Documents

If you need to go to a subfolder like My Pictures, double-click on that folder as well.

Once you find the files you want to recover, you can copy and paste them to an external drive or even email them to yourself (for most wired broadband connections, Ubuntu will automatically set up a working internet connection).

Yes, you may be shocked that anyone can boot a live CD and access your files, but it’s true. Better you know now and get rid of that false sense of security you used to have. If you have confidential files, you may want to consider encrypting them or not storing them electronically.

The screenshots and instructions are from Ubuntu 8.04 (nicknamed Hardy Heron), but they should also work (with slight modifications) on other releases of Ubuntu or with other Linux versions (or “distributions”) as well.

Continue reading: Recovering Windows files with a Ubuntu CD III: deleted files


  1. Musing… what happens if Ubuntu can’t mount the partition in question? I was trying to do this on someone’s computer when a notice came up that Ubuntu couldn’t mount the Windows XP NTFS partition because it was “dirty” — it hadn’t been shut down right because the computer had crashed and Windows hadn’t been able to “close” the partition properly. The Ubuntu error message gave a command to try in the terminal to force a mount, but that didn’t work. The drive was definitely still spinning, and the screen made references to Windows files missing when attempting a normal boot, so I know it wasn’t damaged beyond recovery. Any ideas?

  2. hi, i’ve run ubuntu but i still can’t access my files. it says the drives can’t mount, first giving me the string of command you quoted above (but no where to input it) and now telling me unable to mount due to DBus error org…..did not receive a reply, possible causes include: the remote applicationdid not send a reply, the message bus security policy blocked the reply, the reply tieout expired or the network connection was broken.

    That’s what I got after attempts to access my windows file or any other partition. Please help!

  3. I wish I had read this earlier. I have a 200hg WD drive that crashed a year or so ago. There is , I don’t believe, any critical info on it as I had other backups.
    I found 20 gb that was usable and turned it into an emergency Ubuntu drive to use to recover data or transfer files ets. .
    I would like to see if i could recover the data but the systems says maybe it is the whole drive or a different partition.
    Should I delete the uUbutu partition and try again?

  4. thanks for this, it really helped me today. I was going to have to spend upwards of $200 to fix my laptop.

  5. hi,

    i have burn a cdr but the computer cant seem to boot from the cd. what went wrong? have reset my bios to boot from my dvdrom oredi

  6. i manage to boot from my cd rom but i got this

    “BusyBox v1.13.3 (Ubuntu 1:1.13.3-|ubuntu11) built in shell (ash)

    Enter ‘help’ for a list of built in commands.

    (initramfs) can not mount /dev/loop0 (/cdrom/casper/filesystem-squaslfs) on //filesystem.squaslifs”

    what shld i do?

  7. I love you! Thought I’d lost all the pictures and videos of my daughter growing up but this saved me and the photos. Alot easier than trying to make a usb xp boot disk!

    Thanks a million

  8. Im using the most new Ubuntu CD ISO, and ‘Trying ubuntu’ boots up,takes me to the desktop…from here I cannot see the harddrive of my previous windows vista..I click on places, not there, i click on Computer, still not there.. even did a fdisk -l and nothing. anything else I could do to get this windows hd to show up? ps: it just shows me all the detail of whats on the cd..not any harddrive whatsoever

  9. And what happens if the Documents and Settings folder just shows as blank? is there a way to take ownership of it or something?
    email me if you can help please, Bicboy.2000 (at)

  10. Oh, thanks for the reminder. In Windows 7 (and possibly Vista, too), the documents live in C:\Users and not C:\Documents and Settings.

    I’ll update the blog post accordingly.

  11. Hi, can I create a bootable Ubuntu USB stick from their website, and use that to save my files in the same way?

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