rescuing data with ubuntu
January 9, 2009 2:00 PM   Subscribe

What folders to back up from a dead windows pc when booting ubuntu in live cd mode?

I want to make sure i get everything off the harddisk before making a clean xp reinstall of my sister in laws computer. But i do not know where to look for the folders to back up. Can i somehow find the entire hard drive and just copy it. like i would in windows just copy the entire contents of the c-drive?

My best bet so far is the Computer folder under places. In this folder i can find two folders that appear to be the correct ones - DOKUMENT and SYSTEM - i also find a Filesystem folder that i cant seem to copy. Is that somehow ok?
posted by FidelDonson to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
Sounds like the hard drive has two partitions. Did your sister have a D: drive on her machine?
posted by delmoi at 2:51 PM on January 9, 2009

You need to know where she stored her documents and other important files. Programs can be reinstalled. It's the data you need to save. The dokument folder seems like an obvious choice, but really, ask her what critical stuff she needs. Then she can't blame later if you don't save something that she didn't tell you about :)
posted by COD at 3:49 PM on January 9, 2009

Storage space is cheap and humans are fallible. Back everything up and sort it out later.
posted by rdr at 4:40 PM on January 9, 2009

With COD: what if she saved everything into folders on the desktop? Or somewhere else entirely?
With rdr: If you can copy the entire disk, even better.
Bonus points if you back up the bookmarks from Application data folders in the user profile folder (C:/Documents and Settings/USERNAME/Application Data/....)
posted by yoHighness at 5:43 PM on January 9, 2009

In Windows, each disk device is identified by a letter: A for the floppy drive, B for the (now usually absent) second floppy drive, C for the first hard drive, D for the CD-ROM and so on. Within each disk device is a hierarchy of folders and files. For example, "C:\Documents and Settings\FidelDonson\My Documents\How To Back Up.doc" is the "How To Back Up.doc" file inside the "My Documents" subfolder of the "FidelDonson" subfolder of the "Documents and Settings" folder on the C: drive.

When you format (i.e. create a filesystem on) a Windows drive, one of the things you can specify is a label like DOKUMENT or SYSTEM. When you're looking at the Windows "My Computer" view, you will see something there like "SYSTEM (C:)" or "DOKUMENT (E:)" so you can tell which drive letter belongs with what.

Ubuntu, like other POSIX-compatible systems, handles this differently. Instead of each disk partition having its own separate hierarchy of folder and file names, there is a single hierarchy of names that logically springs into existence as soon as the system starts up, and the filesystems on various devices get mounted into some appropriate folder within that hierarchy. There are conventional places to put things but these are not enforced by the underlying OS; you can mount any filesystem anywhere you like.

An Ubuntu live CD will auto-mount all the disk-based filesystems it can find as subfolders of /media. If the filesystem in question has a label, it will use the label name as the subfolder name. So if you have two formatted Windows partitions labelled SYSTEM and DOKUMENT, then from your Ubuntu environment you should see the files from those show up under /media/SYSTEM and /media/DOKUMENT respectively.

The "Computer" view inside the Places menu will show you the entire POSIX filesystem hierarchy, which it calls "Filesystem", and will also show you any disk devices that have been auto-mounted according to their label names. So if you open Filesystem, then open the "media" folder you will find inside it, you should see the same SYSTEM and DOKUMENT folders that you saw in the original "Computer" view.

If you plug a USB disk drive into the computer while Ubuntu is running, you will see that show up under /media as well. If the filesystems on that drive's partitions haven't been labelled, Ubuntu will make up generic names like "/media/Disk" and "/media/Disk-1" and so on and you will see Disk or Disk-1 turn up in the Places->Computer view.

If you want to make a complete copy of all files from both the existing hard disk partitions, you can do that by copying the SYSTEM and DOKUMENT folders shown under Places->Computer to suitable subfolders on your external drive.

Note that the NTFS implementation in Ubuntu pays no attention to Windows file attributes or access permissions. You will successfully back up all your files and their contents, by this method, including anything marked Hidden or System or both, and the resulting backups will be accessible to all users of your new Windows installation.
posted by flabdablet at 6:34 PM on January 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

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