magicrescue - Scans a block device and extracts known file types by
looking at magic bytes.
magicrescue [ options ] devices
Magic Rescue opens devices for reading, scans them for file types it
knows how to recover and calls an external program to extract them. It
looks at "magic bytes" in file contents, so it can be used both as an
undelete utility and for recovering a corrupted drive or partition. It
works on any file system, but on very fragmented file systems it can
only recover the first chunk of each file. These chunks are sometimes
as big as 50MB, however.
To invoke magicrescue, you must specify at least one device and the -d
and -r options. See the "USAGE" section in this manual for getting
Default: 1. This will direct magicrescue to only consider files
that start at a multiple of the blocksize argument. The option
applies only to the recipes following it, so by specifying it
multiple times it can be used to get different behavior for
Using this option you can usually get better performance, but
fewer files will be found. In particular, files with leading
garbage (e.g. many mp3 files) and files contained inside other
files are likely to be skipped. Also, some file systems don’t
align small files to block boundaries, so those won’t be found
this way either.
If you don’t know your file system’s block size, just use the
value 512, which is almost always the hardware sector size.
Mandatory. Output directory for found files. Make sure you
have plenty of free space in this directory, especially when
extracting very common file types such as jpeg or gzip files.
Also make sure the file system is able to handle thousands of
files in a single directory, i.e. don’t use FAT if you are
extracting many files.
You should not place the output directory on the same block
device you are trying to rescue files from. This might add the
same file to the block device ahead of the current reading
position, causing magicrescue to find the same file again later.
In the worst theoretical case, this could cause a loop where the
same file is extracted thousands of times until disk space is
exhausted. You are also likely to overwrite the deleted files
you were looking for in the first place.
Mandatory. Recipe name, file, or directory. Specify this as
either a plain name (e.g. "jpeg-jfif") or a path (e.g.
recipes/jpeg-jfif). If it doesn’t find such a file in the
current directory, it will look in ./recipes and
PREFIX/share/magicrescue/recipes, where PREFIX is the path you
installed to, e.g. /usr/local.
If recipe is a directory, all files in that directory will be
treated as recipes.
Browse the PREFIX/share/magicrescue/recipes directory to see
what recipes are available. A recipe is a text file, and you
should read the comments inside it before using it. Either use
the recipe as it is or copy it somewhere and modify it.
For information on creating your own recipes, see the "RECIPES"
Reads input files from file in addition to those listed on the
command line. If file is "-", read from standard input. Each
line will be interpreted as a file name.
Produce machine-readable output to stdout. output_mode can be:
i Print each input file name before processing
o Print each output file name after processing
io Print both input and output file names. Input file names
will be prefixed by "i" and a space. Output file names will
be prefixed by "o" and a space.
Nothing else will be written to standard output in this mode.
Resume from the specified offset in the first device. If
prefixed with 0x it will be interpreted as a hex number.
The number may be prefixed with a sign:
= Seek to an absolute position (default)
+ Seek to a relative position. On regular files this does the
same as the above.
- Seek to EOF, minus the offset.
Say you have destroyed the file system on /dev/hdb1 and you want to
extract all the jpeg files you lost. This guide assumes you have
installed Magic Rescue in /usr/local, which is the default.
Make sure DMA and other optimizations are enabled on your disk, or it
will take hours. In Linux, use hdparm to set these options:
$ hdparm -d 1 -c 1 -u 1 /dev/hdb
Choose your output directory, somewhere with lots of disk space.
$ mkdir ~/output
Look in the /usr/local/share/magicrescue/recipes directory for the
recipes you want. Magic Rescue comes with recipes for some common file
types, and you can make your own too (see the next section). Open the
recipes you want to use in a text editor and read their comments. Most
recipes require 3rd party software to work, and you may want to modify
some parameters (such as min_output_file) to suit your needs.
Then invoke magicrescue
$ magicrescue -r jpeg-jfif -r jpeg-exif -d ~/output /dev/hdb1
It will scan through your entire hard disk, so it may take a while.
You can stop it and resume later of you want to. To do so, interrupt
it (with CTRL+C) and note the progress information saying what address
it got to. Then restart it later with the -O option.
When it has finished you will probably find thousands of .jpg files in
~/output, including things you never knew was in your browser cache.
Sorting through all those files can be a huge task, so you may want to
use software or scripts to do it.
First, try to eliminate duplicates with the dupemap(1) tool included in
$ dupemap delete,report ~/output
If you are performing an undelete operation you will want to get rid of
all the rescued files that also appear on the live file system. See
the dupemap(1) manual for instructions on doing this.
If that’s not enough, you can use use magicsort(1) to get a better
$ magicsort ~/output
Creating recipe files
A recipe file is a relatively simple file of 3-5 lines of text. It
describes how to recognise the beginning of the file and what to do
when a file is recognised. For example, all jfif images start with the
bytes "0xff 0xd8". At the 6th byte will be the string "JFIF". Look at
recipes/jpeg-jfif in the source distribution to follow this example.
Matching magic data is done with a "match operation" that looks like
offset operation parameter
where offset is a decimal integer saying how many bytes from the
beginning of the file this data is located, operation refers to a
built-in match operation in magicrescue, and parameter is specific to
· The string operation matches a string of any length. In the jfif
example this is four bytes. You can use escape characters, like
"\n" or "\xA7".
· The int32 operation matches 4 bytes ANDed with a bit mask. To
match all four bytes, use the bit mask "FFFFFFFF". If you have no
idea what a bit mask is, just use the string operation instead.
The mask "FFFF0000" in the jfif example matches the first two
· The char operation is like "string", except it only matches a
To learn these patterns for a given file type, look at files of the
desired type in a hex editor, search through the resource files for the
file(1) utility (<http://freshmeat.net/projects/file>) and/or search
the Internet for a reference on the format.
If all the operations match, we have found the start of the file.
Finding the end of the file is a much harder problem, and therefore it
is delegated to an external shell command, which is named by the
command directive. This command receives the block device’s file
descriptor on stdin and must write to the file given to it in the $1
variable. Apart from that, the command can do anything it wants to try
and extract the file.
For some file types (such as jpeg), a tool already exists that can do
this. However, many programs misbehave when told to read from the
middle of a huge block device. Some seek to byte 0 before reading (can
be fixed by prefixing cat|, but some refuse to work on a file they
can’t seek in). Others try to read the whole file into memory before
doing anything, which will of course fail on a muti-gigabyte block
device. And some fail completely to parse a partially corrupted file.
This means that you may have to write your own tool or wrap an existing
program in some scripts that make it behave better. For example, this
could be to extract the first 10MB into a temporary file and let the
program work on that. Or perhaps you can use tools/safecat if the file
may be very large.
Recipe format reference
Empty lines and lines starting with "#" will be skipped. A recipe
contains a series of match operations to find the content and a series
of directives to specify what to do with it.
Lines of the format offset operation parameter will add a match
operation to the list. Match operations will be tried in the order
they appear in the recipe, and they must all match for the recipe to
succeed. The offset describes what offset this data will be found at,
counting from the beginning of the file. operation can have the
The parameter is a character sequence that may contain escape
sequences such as \xFF.
The parameter is a single character (byte), or an escape
int32 value bitmask
Both value and bitmask are expressed as 8-character hex strings.
bitmask will be ANDed with the data, and the result will be
compared to value. The byte order is as you see it in the hex
editor, i.e. big-endian.
The first match operation in a recipe is special, it will be used to
scan through the file. Only the char and string operations can be used
there. To add more operation types, look at the instructions in
A line that doesn’t start with an integer is a directive. This can be:
Mandatory. ext names the file extension for this type, such as
Mandatory. When all the match operations succeed, this command
will be executed to extract the file from the block device.
command is passed to the shell with the block device’s file
descriptor (seeked to the right byte) on stdin. The shell
variable $1 will contain the file its output should be written
to, and it must respect this. Otherwise magicrescue cannot tell
whether it succeeded.
Optional. After a successful extraction this command will be
run. Its purpose is to gather enough information about the file
to rename it to something more meaningful. The script must not
perform the rename command itself, but it should write to
standard output the string "RENAME", followed by a space,
followed by the new file name. Nothing else must be written to
standard output. If the file should not be renamed, nothing
should be written to standard output. Standard input and $1
will work like with the command directive.
Default: 100. Output files less than this size will be deleted.
By default, recipes will not match on overlapping byte ranges.
allow_overlap disables this, and it should always be used for
recipes where the extracted file may be larger than it was on
disk. If bytes is negative, overlap checking will be completely
disabled. Otherwise, overlap checking will be in effect for
everything but the last bytes of the output. For example, if
the output may be up to 512 bytes bigger than the input,
allow_overlap should be set to 512.
To test whether your recipe actually works, either just run it on your
hard disk or use the tools/checkrecipe script to pick out files that
should match but don’t.
If you have created a recipe that works, please mail it to me at
firstname.lastname@example.org so I can include it in the distribution.
WHEN TO NOT USE MAGIC RESCUE
Magic Rescue is not meant to be a universal application for file
recovery. It will give good results when you are extracting known file
types from an unusable file system, but for many other cases there are
better tools available.
· If there are intact partitions present somewhere, use gpart to find
· If file system’s internal data structures are more or less
undamaged, use The Sleuth Kit. At the time of writing, it only
supports NTFS, FAT, ext and FFS, though.
· If Magic Rescue does not have a recipe for the file type you are
trying to recover, try foremost instead. It recognizes more file
types, but in most cases it extracts them simply by copying out a
fixed number of bytes after it has found the start of the file.
This makes postprocessing the output files more difficult.
In many cases you will want to use Magic Rescue in addition to the
tools mentioned above. They are not mutually exclusive, e.g. combining
magicrescue with dls from The Sleuth Kit could give good results. In
many cases you’ll want to use magicrescue to extract its known file
types and another utility to extract the rest.
When combining the results of more than one tool, dupemap(1) can be
used to eliminate duplicates.
<http://www.stud.uni-hannover.de/user/76201/gpart/>. Tries to
rebuild the partition table by scanning the disk for lost
<http://foremost.sourceforge.net>. Does the same thing as
magicrescue, except that its "recipes" are less complex.
Finding the end of the file must happen by either matching an
EOF string or just extracting a fixed number of bytes every
time. It supports more file types than Magic Rescue, but
extracted files usually have lots of trailing garbage, so
removal of duplicates and sorting by size is not possible.
The Sleuth Kit
<http://www.sleuthkit.org/sleuthkit/>. This popular package of
utilities is extremely useful for undeleting files from a
FAT/NTFS/ext2/ext3/FFS file system that’s not completely
corrupted. Most of the utilities are not very useful if the
file system has been corrupted or overwritten. It is based on
The Coroner’s Toolkit
JPEG recovery tools
This seems to be the file type most people are trying to
recover. Available utilities include
Getting disk images from failed disks
dd(1), rescuept(1), <http://www.garloff.de/kurt/linux/ddrescue/>,
Processing magicrescue’s output
dupemap(1), file(1), magicsort(1), <http://ccorr.sourceforge.net>
magic(4), hexedit(1), <http://wotsit.org>
Filesystem-specific undelete utilities
There are too many to count them, especially for ext2 and FAT.
Find them on Google and Freshmeat.
Jonas Jensen <email@example.com>
You can find the latest version at