Copy Files From A Failing Hard Drive

If a hard drive is failing it can be difficult to copy files from it. Windows Explorer is poor at copying files at the best of times – using it to copy files from a failing hard drive can be an even more frustrating experience.

The problem with Explorer (in all versions of Windows) is that it stops the entire copy/paste operation whenever it encounters a file it can’t copy – and it doesn’t even tell you which file is to blame…

E.g. when you bulk copy a Pictures folder of 500 pictures to an external drive, if one file is corrupted/unreadable, the entire operation stops dead in its tracks. You may end up having to copy just a handful of pictures at a time until, by trial and error, you eventually work out which one is corrupt.

This can be very time consuming and, if a hard drive is failing, it is important to copy files from it as quickly as possible – before it dies completely.

Roadkil’s Unstoppable Copier does a much better job of recovering files from hard drives with physical damage.

Unstoppable Copier – Unlike Explorer, when Unstoppable Copier comes to a file that is too corrupt to copy or rebuild it simply skips it and carries on copying the rest.

It also displays a listing during the copy operation of all files copied and their status so you can easily see which files were corrupt and/or skipped as shown below:

unstoppable copier
Unstoppable Copier
  • Free and simple to use – there is also an online help manual available from the Help/About tab
  • Available for Windows (all versions) and Linux
  • Installer version or Portable (Stand Alone) version available – the stand alone version (recommended) is a single program file which does not require installation and can be copied to a flash drive for use on any computer
  • Copies files from hard drives with problems such as bad sectors, scratches or that just give errors when reading data
  • Attempts to recover every readable piece of a file and put the pieces together – using this method most types of files can be made useable (by advanced users) even if some parts of the file were not recoverable
  • Batch mode functions – allows use as a regular (e.g. weekly) backup system. A list of transfers can be saved to a file and then run from the command line to perform the same batch of transfers on a regular basis, without having to use the user interface
  • Supports command line parameters which allow the application to be run from schedulers or scripts

Download Unstoppable Copier – from the developer’s site here – choose your operating system and whether you want the full installer or the stand alone (portable) version.

Alternatives – If the Windows file system is corrupt and Windows will not start, see how to backup files using Knoppix. As Knoppix uses its own file system it is often able to read files that the corrupted Windows file system cannot.

If the computer is also failing e.g. will not turn on, see how to copy files from a dead computer – use Unstoppable Copier on the other computer (that you attach the hard drive to) to enhance the chances of recovery.


Unstoppable Copier is a great improvement on Windows Explorer to copy files from a failing hard drive as it can process or skip files that are badly corrupted without stopping, hence its name. Automated copying is quicker than manually copying folder by folder in Explorer – doubly important if a drive is failing to lessen the risk of it failing completely before you have finished.

It also has other features such as batch mode functions (to perform a regular backup of files) and the ability to pause and resume a copying operation – a feat which Windows Explorer has always been unable to offer.