Copy Files From A Dead Computer

An easy way to transfer files from a dead computer is to buy a USB hard drive enclosure. Our recent article reviewed the best way to backup files on a hard drive – to back them up from within Windows. But this is no use if your computer is totally dead.

Assuming you can’t fix the computer – the simplest way of transferring your files to another computer is to buy a USB hard drive enclosure (often called a USB caddy). There are 4 types of enclosure – make sure you buy the right one for your size and type of hard drive:

1. Laptop hard drive – 2.5 inch IDE or
2. Laptop hard drive – 2.5 inch SATA
3. PC hard drive – 3.5 inch IDE or
4. PC hard drive – 3.5 inch SATA

Laptop drives are an inch narrower than PC drives. IDE is a very old interface now whereas SATA has been predominant in the last 7 years or so – an IDE drive has two rows of pins whereas a SATA drive has two flat connectors. If you are unsure which type of interface your hard drive has, compare it to the pictures of a SATA and IDE drive here.

How To Copy Files From A Dead Computer

  • Take the hard drive out of the dead computer.
  • Put it in the USB hard drive enclosure – follow the instructions that came with it.
  • Connect the enclosure to the other computer via the supplied USB cable.
  • The old hard drive should be automatically recognized by Windows and installed as a new mass storage device.

Just like when you plug in any USB storage device, Windows will allocate the next available drive letter (e.g. E: drive) to the enclosure

  • Open (My) Computer to view your external hard drive storage and transfer any files that you want to the other computer.

e.g. copy your documents/music etc from the old hard drive E: and paste them into the corresponding folders on the C: drive in the other computer

  • Once you have completed transferring files to the other computer, keep the old hard drive in the enclosure – you can use it as a cheap external USB hard drive for backups and transferring large files etc.

2 thoughts on “Copy Files From A Dead Computer”

  1. I have a portable drive which one day stopped working. I dont think it spins round any inside the case any more although I have never opened it up. It is very quiet and doesnt vibrate at all so I suspect I am right. The power indicator light still lights up however.

    I have kept this drive as I have personal files and other stuff I hope to learn how to reclaim one day.

    If I brought this problem to your computer repair business how would you retrieve the lost info? If it can be done I suspect I wont be able to do it myself as hardware probably required, so I guess an idea of how much you might charge would help me if I seek help. I live in the UK but a $ ballpark figure would still be useful.

    For info, the drive was not so old, showed no signs of problems, it just didnt work one day ( which was annoying as it was my Windows start up drive at the time).

    • If it doesn’t spin up it MAY just be the drive’s PCB that is damaged – if it shows signs of scorching etc you could source a replacement PCB from internet firms but may also need to get your drive’s BIOS chip swapped too – perhaps $50-$100 for a PCB and BIOS swap online.

      There are no guarantees it would work though as there could be other damage too – serious data recovery specialists could charge hundreds just to look at the drive so perhaps try to find someone local who can test the drive and/or remove the PCB to check for signs of damage and take it from there. Whether the cost is worth it depends on how much you need the data :-(

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