Linux’s Built-In Tools for Data Recovery and Backup

Although Linux distros aren’t exactly considered the most user-friendly operating systems available, many of the different distributions do include some very helpful utilities – as long as you know where to look. Not only can some of these utilities be used for managing and maintaining your Linux data, but some of them are specifically meant for data recovery or backup.

It’s important to note that all Linux distros are not equal. As such, some of these tools might not be included with your Linux installation by default. Many of them are featured in some of the most popular distros, however, including ALT Linux, Debian, Fedora, Red Hat, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Ubuntu, and more.

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

  • TestDisk: Originally written and developed by Christophe Grenier, TestDisk is a free and open-source utility that is included with many Linux distros. It’s primarily used to analyze data or information about 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 functionality of its own, 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 distros. Its purpose is very specific: to try and recover data that has been lost due to hard drive read errors. It accomplishes this by copying data from one file or drive to another and, if any errors should occur, employing a highly sophisticated algorithm to try and reconstruct the data. Moreover, it does so without causing any damage whatsoever to the data that is still intact. As a secondary usage, GNU ddrescue can also merge multiple data backups while automatically identifying and resolving disk errors.
  • PhotoRec: Written and developed by the same programmer that is responsible for TestDisk, PhotoRec utilizes advanced data carving algorithms to recovery lost files from memory cards, CD-ROMs, and hard disk drives. Like TestDisk, it’s become popular enough over the years to warrant its inclusion with many Linux distributions; but it’s compatible with other operating systems, too, including the most recent versions of Windows and even the DOS command line environment.
  • SystemRescue: SystemRescue, also known as SystemRescue CD, differs from the other utilities in this list as it is actually a full-scale Linux distribution on its own. However, it’s not meant as 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, external USB drive, or an internal hard drive. While SystemRescue provides a rather limited OS experience, it does include some highly valuable tools: including TestDisk, ddrescue, PartImage, FSArchiver, GRUB and SYSLINUX bootloaders, Firefox and ELinks web browsers, and more.

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