Recovering UFS2 content via Sleuthkit

Paul Mather paul at
Tue May 24 13:12:03 PDT 2005

On Tue, 2005-05-24 at 14:42 -0400, Bill Vermillion wrote:

> > Has anyone managed successfully to recover deleted file content
> > using, say, Sleuthkit, or is deleted UFS2 content recovery
> > not feasible (aside from sifting manually with a disk sector
> > editor)?
> I've not used Sleuthkit but I've managed to recover files
> using TCT - The Coroners Tookkit and the program 'lasarus' in
> conjunction with 'unrm'.   

Thanks for the suggestion.  Unfortunately, my desktop system runs
FreeBSD 6.0-CURRENT, and I discovered the following when trying to build
TCT from ports:

===>  tct-1.14 is marked as broken: Does not build on FreeBSD >= 6.x.

I do have a 4.11-STABLE system, and did build the TCT port there, mainly
to have a look at the documentation.  Does unrm understand UFS2?  I can
only see references to UFS.

> > I tried Sleuthkit from the ports collection, and although I can
> > find deleted content using it, it's not possible to recover
> > that content because too much important information has been
> > lost from the inode: specifically, although information like
> > the owner and timestamp information appears to be preserved,
> > vital data such as the size, direct blocks, etc. are all zeroed,
> > rendering the deleted content unreachable (or, rather, reducing
> > the problem back to a manual search).
> > So, am I right in thinking that even if the inodes and blocks
> > belonging to a deleted file have not yet been reallocated or
> > used again, it's still not feasible to recover the deleted
> > content easily because of the data loss inflicted upon the
> > deleted file's inode(s)? In other words, that the only data
> > recovery possible is via manual means (searching for signatures
> > and trying to piece together fragments)?
> 'lazarus' has options to build files or build an html structure.
> 'unrm' is preferable to use over 'dd' because you use it to
> search the disk only for unallocated blocks.
> What you will often find in the recovered files are parts of
> two files at times, or only part of one large file. This is because
> the 'unrm' goes block by block through the drive, and files are not
> neccesarily contiguous.
> When I ran 'unrm' and 'lazarus' after stupidly not checking a
> command line [I accidentally remove files like this about every 6
> or 8 years :-( ] I saved the output of the unrm to another
> partition, then ran lazarus to parse those pieces found by 'unrm'.
> Then when I got the whole segment done, I just moved that entire
> tree into my XP machine and used the 'search' utility to look for
> strings.

Looking at lazarus, it seems like it is trying to semi-automate a manual
search/classification of data blocks.  Is this a consequence of what I
observed originally (i.e., too much vital information is scrubbed in the
inode when a file is deleted, so, even if the inode[s] and data blocks
have not been reallocated, there's still no direct linkage information
for data recovery software to chase)?

In my case, I'll probably not bother with lazarus.  According to
Sleuthkit, the deleted content seems to consist mainly of some PDF files
and some multimedia files (FLAC, SHN, AVI, and MPG).  Unfortunately,
these would seem to be poor candidates for manual inspection recovery,
because it's hard to see what is a valid part of the file, and whether
everything is in the correct order.  With the multimedia files, in
particular, these are likely to be large and hence much more likely to
be non-contiguously laid out.

> Nothing is easy when it comes to recovering lost files.  But you
> learn more about the system, and more importantly it reinforces
> your checking to keep from doing this again - hopefully.

In my case, it was a matter of executing the right command in the wrong
directory too late at night on too little sleep. ;-)

I did manage to ctrl-c the command fairly quickly, when I realised the
Awful Truth of what was happening. :-)  In retrospect, I should probably
have bashed the reset button before SoftUpdates had a chance to start
committing things to disk. :-)

> > Also, I wonder why some, but not all, information is scrubbed when a
> > file becomes deleted (especially information in the inode).
> Probably for performance problems.  There has been talk about
> buildding an FS that will zero blocks when you remove the indoes,
> and in that case you will never recover anything.   An 'rm' just
> essentially frees up the inodes, and doesn't do a thing with the
> on-disk blocks.

I can understand not scrubbing the on-disk blocks (as you say, for
performance reasons), but it seemed curious that only some parts of the
dinode appeared to be scrubbed, because it's all going to be written
back to disk anyway (so why not scrub it all?).  (Perhaps it's just a
sadistic way of mocking those who would attempt data recovery: a sort of
"you're close, but not close enough..." [cue echoing mocking laughter,
et al.] :-))

> Best of luck on your attempts.  'tis painful and I've done it.
> If you run lazarus to output html you may be surprised to find what
> else lurrks on your disk that you thought you had gotten rid of.

Sleuthkit was very revealing when it came to finding deleted content
(and Autopsy makes browsing very convenient).  It just seemed no good
for actually recovering it, at least as far as I could tell.  It does
support UFS2, though.

Thanks for the help and advice!


e-mail: paul at

"Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production
 deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid."
        --- Frank Vincent Zappa

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