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How To Browse Your Linux Partition from Windows

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Ever need to grab a file or two from your ext4 partition?  Maybe you’ve wanted to backup a few important files while you were in Windows.  Here’s how to browse your Linux partition from Windows using a tool called Ext2explore.

Most Linux distributions nowadays use the ext4 partition by default, and while there are some tools that can read the older ext2 and ext3 partitions, Ext2explore (also known as Ext2Read) is the only one that we’ve seen that is able to read all three.  In the spirit of Linux, it’s also open source.

You can download Ext2explore from the Ext2Read Sourceforge page, and runs on Windows XP SP3, as well as Vista and 7 in compatibility mode.

There is no installation for the utility, so just unzip the file.  You can give it its own folder, if you like.  Ext2explore has a few compatibility issues, so let’s fix them first, shall we?  Right-click the .exe file and go to Properties.

properties dialog

Then, click on the Compatibility tab.

compatibility pane

Under “Compatibility Mode” choose Windows XP (Service Pack 3) from the drop-down menu.  Next, check the Run this program as an administrator item, and click OK.  This insures that the program runs smoothly (we had no issues with the XP SP3 setting) and has the privileges to access unmounted partitions.

Just double-click the program to launch it.  You’ll get a security warning from Windows, to which you should respond Yes.

security prompt

You should see the main Ext2explore window:

ext2explore window \

The program automatically scans your disks for ext partitions.  This also works on USB disks, too!  If nothing is shown or you get an error message stating no ext partitions were found, verify that ran the program as an administrator, and rescan by clicking the computer monitor icon in the top bar (next to Tux the penguin).

ext2explore browsing

Double-click on folders to open them, and navigate around like you would in Explorer.  You can view files’ properties, or save them to another folder on your Windows partition by right-clicking and selecting Save.

right-click and save

You’ll see a prompt asking you where to save your chosen files/folders to.

save dialog

You’ll see a “Saving…” dialog and there you go!

copying files...

While you won’t be able to write to ext2, ext3, or ext4 partitions, this is a great utility that can save you in a pinch if you just need a few files from your Linux partition.  It’s also not a bad way to backup some important things if your Linux install fails to boot, though be careful with file permissions once you’re back in Linux.

Yatri Trivedi is a monk-like geek. When he's not overdosing on meditation and geek news of all kinds, he's hacking and tweaking something, often while mumbling in 4 or 5 other languages.

  • Published 10/29/10

Comments (22)

  1. Jean-Francois Messier

    personnally, instead of installing this utility, I would rather just start using a Live Version of Linux. I mainly use Linux, anyway.

  2. Leo

    I barely need to do this since all my files are in Windows, but in case of need i use Yareg

  3. Mistiq

    What do you suggest for somebody that dual boots and wants to put their home folder in a separate partition? I have a data partition for all music, pics and etc…. right now it’s ntfs but Linux won’t install home there. IS there anything I can do that lets me access and edit files on the data partition from both OS’s

  4. Darren

    This is really helpful. I’ll be forwarding a lot of peeps to this post ;)

  5. Darren

    @Mistiq I don’t know if this is what you want but this is a clear guide on how to create your /home folder on a seperate partition.

  6. Esteban

    All my computers are dual boot – Windows / Linux. I do have a few files in my Linux partition, so I will give this utility program a whirl. Thanx

  7. Haf

    ext2explore, really? I’ve tried this before and got mixed results. What I find way better is ext2ifs ( http://www.fs-driver.org/ ). It installs as a driver and enables you to mount Linux Partitions through the Windows Control Panel. Windows 7 is not officially supported, but Vista is and I use it with 7 just finde.

    Another way to access Linux partitions would be a lightweight VM, using VirtualBox or VMWare or something similar..

  8. Name (required)

    Bah, why not just run a virtual machine with a small-footprint distro of Linux. Then you can access JFS filesystems like I need to, which this ext2/3/4-only software will not allow. You might also learn a little Linux, which isn’t going to hurt in this day and age.

  9. gilteon

    @mistiq You should do fine if you make the partition FAT32. Major caveat there is that you can’t have any files larger than 4GB on the partition. If you need to have files larger than 4GB, you could try exFAT, which may require additional drivers for some operating systems; I’m not sure about which Linux flavors have exFAT support built in, but even Windows XP doesn’t (there’s an official optional update to add support), while Vista and 7 support exFAT out of box.

  10. Bishisht Bhatta

    I know the person who created this. Cheers.

  11. m0ps

    In my tests on XP with SP3, this driver caused many bluescreens!
    highly unstable, i would not use this!

  12. bichr

    thank you a lot for this article!

  13. Gary

    works great for me. I messed up my Ubuntu installation and almost all my files are on linux.

    @Jean: what if you need a file on linux FOR windows and forgot to move it somewhere windows can read? (I use 3 HDDs.. 1 Linux, 1 Windows, 1 storage that either os can access) sometimes i download stuff and forget to move it over. I can either restart and then sit through windows loading again, boot a live cd which takes as long as windows to be funtional to the point i need, or there’s this program which works exactly as needed. Great post!

  14. Col

    What is with the (really>complicated>folder>structure>to) folders nonsense?
    home>username will give you access to Documents,Music,Pictures,Videos and Downloads folders plus any others you have created.

  15. onumutt

    One can also use Ext2Fsd by Matt Wu. I havn’t tested it extensevely, but so far (couple of years) it has not crashed a single time.
    You can download Ext2Fsd at: http://sourceforge.net/projects/ext2fsd/files/

  16. jayanta dey

    nice sharing….

  17. rajeev jayswal

    thats nice….!!

  18. Silvain Dupertuis

    The “Ext2 Installable File System for Windows” software was more complete… BUT does not access Ext4 partitions.
    While Ext2Explore allows you to access files simply and quickly in your Ext4 linux partition…
    Very nice.

  19. thiyagi

    Really Nice..i love it

  20. senthil

    Hi i have installed my my fedora on unallocated free space in my harddisk. The problem now is if i run this ext2explore it doest not display the entire linux file system. it shows only the basic linux files.

  21. Holger

    good guide!
    Although I’m on Linux most of the time there are some rare occasions that I have to resort to my WinXP.
    I therefore choose to keep all relevant data on NTFS-drives which I can easily access from Linux.
    So far, this works pretty smooth and I never missed any file in WinXP.
    Since I use OpenOffice under Linux and XP I can work with all documents in both worlds, same applies to Firefox, avidemux, handbrake and others.

  22. dlgn

    I would also recommend Ext2fsd, as it allows you to mount the partitions and access them like any other filesystem that Windows can read. It works for me with Windows 7 Ultimate 32-bit and Ubuntu Linux 10.10 64-bit.

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