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Data loss with Windows 8 and Linux dual-boot

The other day I booted up Linux and copied some files onto my hard drive so I could work on my project at University. As it turned out the following day, I needed to install some software on Linux before I could start working on my project, which was going to take an hour to download. Not wanting to waste that much time, I simply rebooted into Windows where I already had said software, expecting to just work there although I prefer Linux.

Except my files were gone.

Windows had somehow managed to delete, or not acknowledge the fact I had copied some files onto the shared NTFS partition the previous day. I had never had a problem for years with NTFS partitions under Linux, and I knew it couldn’t have been a problem with writing them in the first place, as the files existed when I booted Linux up after a shutdown. I wasn’t sure if it was a hard drive problem, major problem in the NTFS-3G driver, or Windows.

After Googling the situation for a while, I realised that the problem lies within Windows 8 (of course it does…). When shutting down Windows 8, it actually partially hibernates as part of its new ‘Fast Startup’ feature. When I had copied files to Linux all was fine, the files did exist on the hard drive, and Linux had no problem reading them the next day. But when Windows started up again, it actually partly resumed, including the state it knew the hard drive to be in previously. Since it never knew about the writes to the hard drive I had done in Linux, all of those files were lost.

This technology, while speeding up boot times considerably, is actually quite damaging to those dual booting. The lack of documentation or information about the impact of this on dual-boot systems is worrying. I had plenty of backups of my files, but if I had not or if I had created files from scratch in Linux, they would all be lost. I can’t be the only one that expects a shutdown to actually shutdown, not partially hibernate, even if the new method is faster.

Fortunately, there is a way to disable this behaviour. In ‘Power Options’ in Control Panel, you can click ‘Choose what the power buttons do’, and under ‘Shutdown settings’ untick ‘Turn on fast start-up’.

I’m still not sure why I ‘upgraded’ to Windows 8.