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How to read Linux partitions on Windows

If you dual-boot Windows and Ubuntu, or another Linux distribution, there may come a time when you need to get files from your Linux installation onto your Windows installation.

By default, it is impossible to read Linux partitions (filesystems) on Windows. Microsoft doesn’t provide the drivers to do this with the Windows kernel. However, there are ways to read these partitions. In this guide, we’ll show you how you can read Linux partitions on your Windows installation.

Before we begin

Mounting Linux partitions inside Windows can be dangerous, and it is possible to lose your data. Before attempting to mount your disks in Windows via WSL, or with Linux Reader, please ensure you have your important files backed up to the cloud, an external hard drive, etc.

How to read Linux partitions in Windows via Linux Reader

If you just need to access files quickly, don’t necessarily require a lot of features, and don’t care that much about what you can do with Linux filesystems, Linux Reader is what you need.

Linux Reader is a third-party app that can scan your Windows PC for Linux-formatted hard drives and mount them. To get started with Linux Reader, head over to the official download page. Once you’re there, find the “Get it free” button, and select it with the mouse to download the EXE installer.

After downloading the EXE installer, launch Windows Explorer, select your “Downloads” folder, and double-click on “Linux_Reader.exe”. Once you’ve selected the EXE, launch it and install the program.

When you’ve installed Linux Reader on Windows, open up the Windows Start Menu, and launch “DiskInternals Linux Reader”. Once you launch it, you will need to approve it with User Account Control. Select “Yes.”

After giving Linux Reader admin access, it should show you both “volumes” and “physical drives.” “Volumes” stands for partition. Find the partition you wish to access in Windows in the “Volumes” section, and right-click on it.

Once you’ve right-clicked on the Linux drive in Linux Reader, find “Mount to Disk Letter,” and select it. Clicking this option will allow you to mount the disk to a Windows drive letter (like E, etc.)

Note: mounting it via a drive letter requires a pro license.

When the drive is mounted via a drive letter, you will be able to access your Linux data via Windows Explorer. To unmount it from a drive letter, find “Virtual Disk Manager” in Linux Reader, and select “Unmount.”

How to read Linux partitions in Windows via WSL

If you want a more robust way of accessing Linux filesystems on your Windows computer, you will need to use WSL (the Windows Subsystem for Linux). To start, you’ll need to open PowerShell (as Admin) and install WSL.

To install WSL in Windows PowerShell, enter the following command.

wsl --install

Upon entering the command above, you must reboot your Windows PC. After rebooting, log back in and you should have WSL installed. However, if not, access “Turn Windows features on or off,” and select “Windows Subsystem for Linux.”

After enabling WSL, change the version to 2, and enable the “Virtual Machine Platform” in PowerShell (in Admin mode).

wsl --set-default-version 2
dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:VirtualMachinePlatform /all /norestart

You must now install a Linux distribution. This Linux distribution, once installed, will allow you to mount Linux partitions inside Windows.

wsl --install -d Ubuntu

After installing Ubuntu using the WSL command, launch it via the Windows start menu. Once Ubuntu is open, it will “finish installing”. When the installation is finished, use the following commands to update Ubuntu.

sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade -y

With Ubuntu up to date, use the Ubuntu terminal and create a new folder in the “mnt” directory, with the name “external-drives.” This folder is where you’ll mount your Linux partition.

sudo mkdir -p /mnt/external-drives/

After creating the folder, return to Windows PowerShell, and use the wmic diskdrive command to view available hard drives on your Windows PC.

wmic diskdrive list brief

Look through the list of drives for your Linux hard drive. Once you’ve found it, use the following command to mount it to WSL. Note, please change “PHYSICALDRIVEXX” to the drive label listed by the wmic command. Be sure to also change “–partition YY” to the correct partition number.

wsl --mount \\.\PHYSICALDRIVEXX --partition YY

Once the drive is mounted in WSL, return to the Ubuntu terminal and run the lsblk command. Look through the lsblk readout for your drive. You’ll know it’s your drive based on its size.

When you’ve located your drive, mount it to the /mnt/external-drives/ folder. Replace “sdXY” with your drive’s label. For example, your drive may be /dev/sdb1, or something similar.

sudo mount /dev/sdXY /mnt/external-drives/

After mounting the drive in the Ubuntu terminal, open up Windows Explorer, and find “Linux” in the sidebar. Click on it, and navigate to the “mnt” folder, followed by the “external-drives” folder. Once you’ve loaded up the “external-drives” folder in Windows Explorer, you’ll have access to your Linux files in Windows.

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