Undeleting a file overwritten with mv


Since I didn’t manage to re-mount the root partition as read-only to avoid further damage softly, I used the big hammer to remount everything read-only immediately:

echo u > /proc/sysrq-trigger  

I haven’t ever seen this before! This page seems like a good overview, some other things that are possible:

  • Reboot
  • Display held locks
  • OOM-kill a process
  • SIGKILL all processes
  • CPU backtraces

I knew the inode number of the deleted file! As I mentioned before, my understanding of file systems was (and is) rather naive, and I was pretty optimistic to be able to recover the file using that information. Isn’t that sort of what a journaling filesystem is for? Recovering the file this way appeared to be impossible. ext4magic and extundelete are powerful tools that did find some deleted files on my disk – but not the one I was looking for, even after trying different options for over two hours

There is this one other approach to file recovery that is often recommended on the internet, usually for “small text files”: Just grep your whole disk for known parts of its contents! So why wouldn’t this work on larger non-text files as well? All FLV files that contain video start with the byte sequence FLV\x01\x05 . So let’s search our 2 TB disk for that byte sequence and print out the byte offset of all occurences! This took roughly 7 hours.

In total, the search found 126 FLV file headers on our disk. This was pretty reassuring, since we had 122 FLV files still known to the file system – so there are at least four FLV byte sequences without a filename!

Now, all that was left to do was writing out the byte sequences of (at least) 1.6 GB starting at the five possible byte offsets. Just to be safe, I exported 1.8 GB of each

I then downloaded the five files, and indeed, the one with the highest position on disk contained the video file I accidentally deleted. Except some very minor corruption of less than a second somewhere in the video, the video was fully recovered. Phew.

This sounds interesting. Why were the file contents corrupted?🤔