I had a usb harddisk with a linux system on one partition and my media collection on another.

I deleted the linux partition, formatted this partition to fat and placed an empty file "usb" in the partition root.

Then I let raspbmc install, thinking it would install to that usb partition

Q: Can I install Raspbmc to a USB drive?

A: Yes — but the SD card will still be needed to boot. This may seem futile then, however, the performance gains are admirable. This can be done easily through the Windows installer. For users installing via Python or manually, all that is needed is to create a file called ‘usb’ on the fat32 partition. The installer will then install to the first detected USB drive.

Instead it wiped the whole disk and installed itself there. All my media gone for now.

  1. What would you advise me to do next?

  2. How can I recover as much as possible?

  3. There are thousands of files lost. How do I find out, which files where damaged (truncaded, partially overwritten, etc...) other than by trial and error, once recovered.

1 Answer 1


The installer copies a disk image, overwriting the MBR and partition information.

The good news is that the image is quite small, and so is unlikely to have overwritten your data, if this was not near the start of the disk.

You will need a program which can recover lost partition records. There are a few programs which can analyse the disk surface, and work out where the likely partition beginning and end are located. It is many years since I have done this, and can't recall a program name. You may have to buy suitable software.

Need I add, that if you had a backup this would not be a problem ;)

NOTE This is not a Pi question. You may get more advice on a site which deals with whatever OS you are using.

  • I found out that testdisk seems to give me the position of the later ext superblocks. Once I am able to duplicate the hd, I will try to reapply the blocks and see if this makes my data reappear.
    – Jan
    May 9, 2014 at 12:15
  • Is there a way to backup such a disk that it will only backup, beginning and end sector of a file and its name (and other stuff like that)? That metadata often is more difficult to repair than the data itself. Maybe the NSA can help me with that ;)
    – Jan
    May 9, 2014 at 12:17

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