Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
If I were in your shoes, I would open the box, take out the hard drive, and put it in an external USB enclosure.
Hi, Leo. My very dear aunt passed away this summer and I've been asked by her family to try and retrieve her photos and any other important docs off of her computer. However, when I start it up, I get to the Windows start up screen and the PC immediately reboots. It's an older Compaq machine running Windows 2000 Pro. I tried to start it in safe mode and got the same result. Granted, I plugged in all of my user interface tools: keyboard, mouse, etc., which had never been on this machine before. Any suggestions as to what to do would be greatly appreciated. I understand that there are several years worth of grandchildren photos on this PC and we'd really like to retrieve them. I'm thinking my only option might be to crack open the case and pull out the hard drive and put it into a docking station, but I don't have one and I hate to buy one if there's a way around that.
In this excerpt from Answercast #59, I look at two simple ways to access old pictures from a computer that won't boot.
Well, actually, in your situation, it's unclear what you mean specifically by "docking station," but what I'm going to recommend sounds very similar to that.
If I were in your shoes, I would open the box, take out the hard drive, and put it in external USB enclosure. They're not that terribly expensive and after you're done (after you've gotten everything copied and appropriately backed up), you've got a nice little external hard drive you can use for other purposes.
Point being here that obviously, your aunt hadn't been backing up. If the pictures are only on that hard drive, then they haven't been getting backed up.
So the thing to do is like I said, put it in an external drive. Make a USB drive out of it. Connect it up to another computer and immediately start copying all those files off.
Then, immediately start backing up. Those sound like pretty important pictures. The scenario you've descried is actually incredibly common - where people have someone who has passed away or who have left a computer behind that has a problem or a computer on which is the only copy of something important.
Most often, it is in fact photographs. That's why I so frequently stress the importance of backing up or making copies of things.
But a USB enclosure... it's not going to be terribly expensive and it really does sound like the quickest and most expeditious way to solve this problem.
Now, if you really, really, really, really don't want to do that, the other approach that I would take would be to boot the machine from a Linux Live CD.
Grabbing something like Ubuntu Linux (or any of the other Linux distributions that supply what's called a "Live CD") will allow you to do two things:
You can install or insert a new external USB drive or some other device (probably USB based) and then copy those pictures to that other device using the Linux Live CD.
You'll need that external drive, so it sounds like you're gonna end up with something like that anyway unless you're willing to go through a lot of copies with a flash drive that you already have.
But that's the other approach. Basically, it's to boot from something else
that allows you access to the hard drive, at which point you can copy
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