Blew away my partition table

Eberhard Moenkeberg emoenke at
Tue Jun 29 15:22:48 CDT 2010


On Tue, 29 Jun 2010, Jefferson Ogata wrote:
> On 2010-06-29 19:44, Eberhard Moenkeberg wrote:
>> On Tue, 29 Jun 2010, J. Epperson wrote:

>>> Arrived home very tired and in a lapse of judgement tried to configure a
>>> new USB backup drive on my PERC3 based home server, with a new cat roaming
>>> between me and the monitor.  Created a new partition on the existing
>>> /dev/sda instead of the new /dev/sdb.  System is still running, and I"m
>>> doing an rsync to the new drive now.
>>> Can some kind soul help me remember how to repair this surgically instead
>>> of rebuilding the filesystem and reloading it?  If not, I deserve it.
>> You just need to revert the partition table change.
>> If you do not have a backup of the master boot record (LILO would have
>> one), you can use the df output to estimate the right cylinder numbers.
> /proc/partitions is possibly a better reference.
>> If you need trial and error to find the boundaries, "tune2fs -l /dev/sdaX"
>> is a non-destructive test.
> Doubtful that will work; it will refer to the old partition table the
> kernel is still using.

Yes, it works only after reboot.

> You should be able to use dmsetup to create device nodes with offset
> into /dev/sda if you want to do this. But you should be able to find
> your filesystem headers with dd and xxd (or any hexdump program).

A very good idea, to avoid the reboot.

> Where to look:
> - The first partition starts one track into the disk; typically that's
> 63 512-byte sectors.
> - The second, third, and fourth partitions are usually on cylinder
> boundaries, with a cylinder typically being 63 * 255 512-byte sectors.
> - If you had more than four partitions, then the last physical partition
> has a partition table at the beginning. The first logical partition will
> begin one track into that physical partition.
> What to look for:
> - For ext3 filesystems, a superblock begins 1024 bytes into the
> partition. At offset 0x38 in the superblock you should find the magic
> number 0x53ef (big-endian).
> - For swap partitions, look at the first 4096 bytes. At the end of that
> page you should find the string SWAPSPACE2.
> - For LVM physical volumes you should see an LVM label 512 bytes from
> the beginning of the partition.

A nice collection. Thanks, I will keep it in case i get into partition 
table trouble.

Viele Gruesse
Eberhard Moenkeberg (emoenke at, em at

Eberhard Moenkeberg
Arbeitsgruppe IT-Infrastruktur
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