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I have a laptop with Ubuntu 9.10 installed. It will not boot to the login screen. If I remove this HDD and connect it as a secondary drive to another PC running Ubuntu, will I be able to access the files on this HDD? There is a lot of data which I haven't backed up which I need to retreive. I don't think the hard drive has failed.
One problem might occur : The filesystems are all different like xfs, ufs, jfs, ext2, ext3, ext4, reiserfs etc etc.
A Linux OS on a PC that is installed on ext3 two years ago might not be able to mount a new ext4 partition. It also will have difficulty to read and write there. Als grub must have support for the filesystem to boot; e2-binaries are to be found at /boot for example.
A crunchbang 8 on ext3 or ext2 I tested was not able to look into a Puppy on ext4. And at grub boot-prompt >root (hd0,3) >find /boot/pressTAB just showed something like <_|_________________________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________>
empty shadow/hidden/ like. I could move the cursor at this line but no character was visible.
You could also use a recent live distro on the original computer without removing the drive. It should be able to handle any filesystem you have. You may also be able to repair your installation so that you can boot again.
If it is failsafe:
cd / / / change directory
could fix x-server problems like freezing. / mounted read-only might also lead to crash because some programs and servers want to write even temp o rary files on the HD.
The Ubuntu X-config binary I donot remember at the moment. I am testing absolute, slax, zenwalk at the moment.