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An encloser is a pretty cool way to access information from a hard drive, if you use the right connection.

Hi! I was wondering if I would keep the data on my laptop hard drive if I decided to put it in an external enclosure? It's a long story, but I have no way to access the data on the hard drive and I was wondering if this transfer to an exterior case was a viable recovery option. Thank you!

In this excerpt from Answercast #11, I look at ways to access a hard drive using a USB enclosure.

USB hard drive enclosure

Absolutely. It's not only a viable recovery option, it's an option that I encourage.

The thing is, simply removing the physical hard drive from the computer doesn't actually affect the data that's on it. The data is still stored on that hard drive. In fact, the USB enclosure that you might get to make this an external hard drive mimics the very same interface that's used in your computer to connect to the hard drive in the first place. So it's actually pretty darned cool.

Save your data with a USB connection

You can take almost any hard drive out of almost any computer and install it in an external enclosure. Make sure to get the correct one for the type of interface that hard drive uses: probably SATA, but it might be EIDE or PATA.

Once you've got it in the enclosure, you can then connect it up to just about any computer and access its contents over the USB connection.

The only downside that I can think of? The USB connection is going to be a bit slower. If you're running into a problem where you can't access the data at all, then absolutely, you can access the data using a different computer, connected to that same hard drive, in an external interface.

I do have an article on it: "Can I use the internal hard drives from an old machine as an external drive on a new one?"

That's a really long title, and a really short answer is, "Yes".

Next - I am running out of room on my backup drive, what can I do?

Article C5235 - April 22, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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2 Comments
Bob
April 23, 2012 8:04 AM

I've been doing this for years, first with my IDE drives from old desktop machines, and more recently with the SATA that came out of my defunct laptop.
With the latest 'interface' I bought (a USB3 SATA drive dock) I even considered hunting around for old drives, to see if if it was worth using them like (physically) large USB sticks.
As drives of all types increase in capacity the older, slower, 'smaller' drives should get cheaper before disappearing entirely.

Brad
April 24, 2012 8:43 AM

From the article: 'If you're running into a problem where you can't access the data at all, then absolutely, you can access the data using a different computer, connected to that same hard drive, in an external interface.'

Absolutely? I'm missing something, because that certainly is NOT true.

What AM I missing?

Thanks.

If the drive and filesystem are undamaged then you can connect the drive to another computer and access the data.
Leo
24-Apr-2012

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