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Recovering Lost Files in WSL2 After Resetting Ubuntu: Is it Possible?

Ubuntu 19

In the world of system administration, data loss can be a significant setback. This is especially true when working with Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 (WSL2) and Ubuntu, where resetting your distribution can lead to the loss of important files. The question that often arises is: can these files be recovered? Let’s delve into this topic and explore the possibilities.

Quick Answer

Recovering lost files in WSL2 after resetting Ubuntu is challenging and not guaranteed to be successful. The reset operation deletes the .vhdx file or rootfs folder containing all the data, making it difficult to retrieve. It is recommended to regularly backup your WSL distribution and disconnect it from the Store installation to prevent data loss.

Understanding WSL2 and Ubuntu Reset

Before we dive into recovery, it’s crucial to understand what happens when you reset a WSL distribution in Ubuntu. The reset option explicitly states that the app’s data will be deleted. This means that all the files and data within the WSL distribution, including the /home directory, will be lost.

The Challenge of Recovery

Unfortunately, once a WSL distribution has been reset, recovering lost files can be quite challenging. The primary reason for this is that the reset operation deletes the .vhdx file or rootfs folder located in the ‘%UserProfile%\AppData\Local\Packages’ directory. This file or folder contains all the data of your WSL distribution, and once deleted, it can be difficult to retrieve.

You can attempt to recover the .vhdx file or rootfs folder using file recovery tools like Recuva. However, these tools may not always be successful, especially when dealing with large files on an SSD.

Backup: The Best Prevention

The best way to safeguard against data loss is to regularly back up your WSL distribution. This can be done using the export command in WSL, which creates a .tar file backup of your distribution. The command is as follows:

wsl --export [Distro] [FileName]

In this command, [Distro] is the name of your WSL distribution (for example, Ubuntu), and [FileName] is the name of the .tar file that will be created. This .tar file can be stored in a safe location and used to restore your WSL distribution if needed.

Restoring from Backup

If you have a backup of your WSL distribution, you can restore your files using the import command in WSL. The command is as follows:

wsl --import [Distro] [InstallLocation] [FileName]

In this command, [Distro] is the name of your WSL distribution, [InstallLocation] is the directory where you want to install the distribution, and [FileName] is the name of the .tar file that you are restoring from.

Disconnecting WSL from Store Installation

Another preventive measure is to “disconnect” the WSL instance from the Store installation by moving it to its own directory. This involves exporting the WSL distribution, creating a new instance, and setting it as the default. By doing this, you can uninstall the Store Ubuntu without worrying about data loss.

Conclusion

In conclusion, while it is technically possible to recover lost files after resetting a WSL2 Ubuntu distribution, the process can be challenging and is not guaranteed to be successful. The best strategy is to prevent data loss in the first place by regularly backing up your WSL distribution and disconnecting it from the Store installation. By taking these precautions, you can ensure that your data remains safe and secure.

Is it possible to recover lost files after resetting a WSL2 Ubuntu distribution?

It is technically possible to recover lost files, but it can be challenging and not guaranteed to be successful.

What happens when you reset a WSL distribution in Ubuntu?

When you reset a WSL distribution, all the files and data within the distribution, including the /home directory, will be deleted.

Can file recovery tools like Recuva be used to recover the .vhdx file or rootfs folder?

File recovery tools like Recuva can be attempted to recover the .vhdx file or rootfs folder, but they may not always be successful, especially with large files on an SSD.

What is the best way to prevent data loss in WSL2?

The best prevention against data loss is regularly backing up your WSL distribution using the export command in WSL to create a .tar file backup.

How can I restore my files from a backup?

You can restore your files from a backup by using the import command in WSL and specifying the WSL distribution, installation location, and the .tar file you are restoring from.

How can I disconnect WSL from the Store installation?

To disconnect WSL from the Store installation, you can export the WSL distribution, create a new instance, and set it as the default. This allows you to uninstall the Store Ubuntu without worrying about data loss.

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