Metadata Analysis


The Metadata Analysis mode allows the investigator to view the details of metadata structures. The metadata structures on the on-disk structures that contain the details of a file, such as times and pointers to the allocated data units. FFS and EXT2FS file systems call them inode structures, NTFS file systems call them Master File Table (MFT) entries (or File Entries), and the FAT file system calls them directory entries. This mode is useful for recovering data and getting a detailed look at a file.


To view the contents of a structure, enter the address in the text box on the left and select Display.

The Allocation List button can also be used to view the allocation status of metadata structures in groups of 500.


The structure details are displayed on the right-hand side. Typically, the metadata structure does not have the name of the file that uses that structure, so Autopsy will try to locate the file name. This process is slow with a FAT file system, so it is not done by default.

The File Type is given, which is the output of the 'file' tool. This tool uses any header information in the file to guess what its type is. The MD5 value of the file is also given.

If Autopsy has been configured to use hash databases, then one can select which databases to look for the file in. See Hash Databases for more details.

The rest of the information will vary depending on the file system type. In general, the allocation status will be given as well as the size and each data unit that it has allocated. A link will exist for each data unit that will show its contents.

The Report option generates an ASCII report with the structure details, MD5 values, and dates in it. The View Contents option displays the allocated data contents as one large file. The Export option allows one to save the data contents to a file. The Add Note button allows one to add a comment about this structure so that it can be later recalled.

NTFS Notes

NTFS is a much different design than UNIX file systems and the meta data structures are addressed differently. They typically have the form of A-B-C, 88-128-3 for example. The A value is the address of the file in the Master File Table, 88 for example. This is similar to the inode value in UNIX. Each file has several attributes, including at least one in files for the data. The B value is the type of attribute. In most cases, the data attribute has a type of 128 so this is commonly seen. But, if you want to see the file name attribute, you could specify that type and see the contents if you like (it is fairly boring). The final value, C, is the id. Every attribute has a unique id value. So, if there are multiple attributes with the same type, you can specify the type.

FAT Notes

FAT does not give addresses to the directory entry structures. in FAT, directory entries can be stored anywhere on the disk. They are stored in the clusters allocated to the parent directory. This is unlike NTFS or UNIX where the structures are in a large table that does not move. get around that,

The addressing issue was solved by providing an address to every 32-byte area in the Data Area. Whether that data was currently a directory entry or not. This makes it easy to find a given address and scale when new files are created. The downside is that not every address is possible, so it is likely that you will see jumps in the address values. See the documentation in The Sleuth Kit for more details.

Brian Carrier