Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Extracting data from a dead computer's hard drive isn't typically all that hard - unless it's the drive itself that caused the problem.
My computer has died on me. I can't get it to boot up. I need to take the hard drive out and pull my files off from it. How do I retrieve the files off my hard drive? Thanks for any help you can give me.
This isn't too uncommon a scenario. Depending on what caused the computer's demise, there's a pretty good chance you can retrieve the information off that hard drive.
Of course, if it's the drive that caused the failure things get a little more interesting.
There are several approaches to this problem, so I'll outline my favorite.
Perhaps the most flexible way of dealing with this scenario is to purchase a USB hard disk drive enclosure. These are almost identical to any of the external USB drives you might purchase ... except there's no drive.
About the only things you need to make sure of are to get the correct size enclosure for the physical size of your drive, and to get an enclosure that supports the correct interface used by that drive: EIDE/PATA or SATA.
Then, it's a simple matter of removing the drive from your dead system, installing it into this drive enclosure and suddenly not only do you have a way of accessing the drive, but it's portable.
In fact, after you've recovered the data you care about and backed up or whatever else you need to do with what's on that drive, it can often have a very useful second life as a portable external drive.
The above assumes that the drive itself is not the cause of your system failure. Perhaps your computer's motherboard died, or something else unrelated that you're electing not to repair.
If the drive's the problem, however, life gets more complicated.
If, after installing the drive in an external enclosure you can't access it at all (not permission denied kinds of errors, I'll talk about those next), then perhaps the drive it self is the cause of your problems.
I'd put it back in the original machine, boot into safe mode if you can and run CHKDSK /R on it. If you can't I'd seriously consider purchasing a copy of SpinRite to see if it can repair the drive. (If not, you can get your money back.)
If none of those options work, you're either looking at contacting a technician, a data recovery service, or you may just be out of luck.
When moving a drive from system to system, particularly if the drive is "the" system drive, and particularly if it's been formatted with the NTFS file system, you may connect up the drive only to find that you can see that it's there and has files - you're just not allowed to see any of them!
Not to worry.
Rather than duplicate the information here I'll point you at this article: How do I gain access to files that Windows says I don't have permission to access?
As long as you can login with an account that has administrative privileges, you'll be able to take ownership and/or change the permissions associated with the files such that you can read, copy, backup or do whatever you like with them.
This actually applies to any drive moved from one system to another - installed internally or externally. The permissions on the drive are relative to its original system, and must be adjusted for the new system.
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