Navigating Unmountable Media with the Digital Forensics XML File System

  • Alexander Nelson National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • Alexandra Chassanoff Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
  • Alexandra Holloway Jet Propulsion Laboratory / California Institute of Technology


Some computer storage is non-navigable by current general-purpose computers. This could be because of obsolete interface software, or a more specialized storage system lacking widespread support. These storage systems may contain artifacts of great cultural, historical, or technical significance, but implementing compatible interfaces that are fully navigable may be beyond available resources.

We developed the DFXML File System (DFXMLFS) to enable navigation of arbitrary storage systems that fulfill a minimum feature set of the POSIX file system standard. Our approach advocates for a two-step workflow that separates parsing the storage’s file system structures from navigating the storage like a contemporary file system, including file contents. The parse extracts essential file system metadata, serializing to Digital Forensics XML for later consumption as a read-only file system.

General Articles