Linux built-in tools for data recovery and backup

While Linux distributions aren’t exactly considered the most user-friendly operating systems available, there are many different distributions that include some very useful utilities – as long as you know where to look. Not only can some of these utilities be used to manage and maintain your Linux data, some of them are specifically for data recovery or backup.

It’s important to note that not all Linux distributions are created equal. As such, some of these tools may not be included by default with your Linux installation. However, many of them are featured in some of the more popular distributions including ALT Linux, Debian, Fedora, Red Hat, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Ubuntu, etc.

Additionally, most of these tools can be used in tandem with other third-party software solutions, including a number of modern software. Linux file recovery and backup tools.

  • Test disc: Originally written and developed by Christophe Grenier, Test disc is a free and open source utility that is included with many Linux distributions. It is mainly used to analyze data or information on a corrupted drive, including unbootable drives, which can then be used by an experienced technician for further analysis and diagnosis. However, TestDisk does include some data recovery features, including the ability to recover a deleted partition, rebuild a partition table, and even rewrite the Master Boot Record, or MBR.
  • GNU ddrescue: First introduced in 2004, GNU ddrescue has since become a staple in many popular Linux distributions. Its goal is very specific: to try to recover data lost due to hard disk read errors. It does this by copying data from one file or drive to another and, if errors occur, using a highly sophisticated algorithm to try to reconstruct the data. Moreover, it does this without damaging the still intact data in any way. As a secondary use, GNU ddrescue can also merge multiple data backups while automatically identifying and resolving disk errors.
  • Photo recording: Written and developed by the same programmer who is responsible for TestDisk, PhotoRec uses advanced data sculpting algorithms to recover lost files from memory cards, CD-ROMs and hard drives. Like TestDisk, it has become popular enough over the years to warrant its inclusion in many Linux distributions; but it is also compatible with other operating systems including newer versions of Windows and even the DOS command line environment.
  • SystemRescue: SystemRescue, also known as the SystemRescue CD, differs from the other utilities on this list because it is actually a large-scale Linux distribution. However, it is not a permanent operating system. Instead, it provides a bootable system – based on the Arch Linux platform – in order to diagnose and repair an unbootable or otherwise damaged system. As such, SystemRescue can be run from a Live CD, an external USB drive, or an internal hard drive. Although SystemRescue offers a rather limited operating system experience, it does include some very valuable tools: including TestDisk, ddrescue, PartImage, FSArchiver, GRUB and SYSLINUX boot loaders, Firefox and ELinks web browsers, etc.

Posted on June 20, 2021

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Brian Steele

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