Recovering Deleted Files With lsof
June 1, 2009
One of the more neat things you can do with the versatile utility lsof is use it to recover a file you've just accidentally deleted.
A file in Linux is a pointer to an inode, which contains the file data (permissions, owner and where its actual content lives on the disk). Deleting the file removes the link, but not the inode itself – if another process has it open, the inode isn't released for writing until that process is done with it.
To try this out, create a test text file, save it and then type less test.txt. Open another terminal window, and type rm testing.txt. If you try ls testing.txt you'll get an error message. But! less still has a reference to the file. So:
Now check the file to make sure you've got what you think you have, and you're done!