HOWTO: Repair a broken Ext4 Superblock

This has happened to me a few times, and it’s not a nice problem to find yourself in. You computer won’t boot, all your filesystem checks tell you you’ve a bad superblock, but you cant seem to find how to fix it. Well, here goes

This guide is for ext4 , though I’ll explain how other filesystems can be cured along the way. The easiest way to carry all this out, seeing as your computer probably won’t boot at this stage, is to download and burn a copy of Parted Magic. Boot from that, and you’ll access to a number of useful tools.

First, figure out what partition we’re dealing with.

sudo fdisk -l
The above will list all the partitions on all the drives in your computer. To recover a lost partition, your going to need Testdisk. Testdisk is included in Parted Magic, and there’s a great guide on their site. For this though, we just need the partition number, such as /dev/sda3 or /dev/hdb1.

Now, make sure your superblock is the problem, by starting a filesystem check, replacing xxx with your partition name. Here, you can change ext4 to ext3, or ext2 to suit the filesystem.

sudo fsck.ext4 -v /dev/xxx
If your superblock is corrupt, the output will look like this

fsck /dev/sda5
fsck 1.41.4 (27-Jan-2009)
e2fsck 1.41.4 (27-Jan-2009)
fsck.ext4: Group descriptors look bad… trying backup blocks…
fsck.ext4: Bad magic number in super-block while trying to open /dev/sda5

The superblock could not be read or does not describe a correct ext4
filesystem. If the device is valid and it really contains an ext4
filesystem (and not swap or ufs or something else), then the superblock
is corrupt, and you might try running e2fsck with an alternate superblock:
e2fsck -b 8193 <device>
Now lets find where your superblock backups are kept.

sudo mke2fs -n /dev/xxx
Down at the bottom of this output, should be a list of the backups

Superblock backups stored on blocks:
32768, 98304, 163840, 229376, 294912, 819200, 884736, 1605632, 2654208
Your almost there. Finally, restore the superblock from the backup, again replacing the x’s with your partition name, and block_number with the first backup superblock.

sudo e2fsck -b block_number /dev/xxx
Now reboot, and your superblock should be fixed. If it’s not, repeat the steps, but restore a different backup superblock

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