How Do I Get Data Off of the Hard Drive in a Dead Computer?

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My computer 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 from the hard drive in a dead computer? Thanks for any help you can give me.

This is a pretty common scenario. Depending on what caused the computer’s demise, there’s a relatively good chance you can retrieve the information off that hard drive.

Of course, if it’s the drive itself that caused the failure, things get a little more interesting.

There are several approaches to this problem. I’ll start with my favorite: not needing to do it at all.

Read moreHow Do I Get Data Off of the Hard Drive in a Dead Computer?

“Chkdsk Cannot Run Because the Volume Is in Use by another Process” — What Does It Mean and How Do I Fix It?

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I think I’ve got a problem with my hard disk. I tried to run Chkdsk, but I keep getting this “Chkdsk cannot run because the volume is in use by another process” error. What’s that mean and what do I do to fix it?

Chkdsk is an important and little-understood command-line utility that comes with every version of Microsoft Windows. Its purpose, as its mangled name implies, is to “check” your “disk”.

In order to do its work, Chkdsk needs complete and exclusive access to the disk it’s about to check. If it doesn’t have that, “Chkdsk cannot run because the volume is in use by another process” is the result.

I’ll look at why, what to do, and what it looks like as it happens.

Read more“Chkdsk Cannot Run Because the Volume Is in Use by another Process” — What Does It Mean and How Do I Fix It?

How to Back Up a Machine that Won’t Boot

Here’s the scenario: all is well and you’re getting lots of work done on your computer, when all of a sudden, it crashes. No idea why — it just crashes.

What’s worse, it won’t reboot. Maybe it just hangs on boot, maybe it says the drive isn’t found, maybe there’s something else interfering.

To make matters worse yet, you stand to lose all that work you were doing, because it hasn’t yet been backed up. Your most recent work seems to be locked inside a hard drive you can’t access.

There may be a way to back it up before dealing with the crash.

Read moreHow to Back Up a Machine that Won’t Boot

Restoring an Image Backup from One Computer to Another

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If I want to restore an image backup from a previous computer, complete with its operating system, onto another computer with a different operating system, will the operating system on the backup be allowed to install and override the operating system on the other computer? If so, how do I get around this?

It’s not a question of “allowing”.

Restoring a full image backup will completely overwrite everything that exists on the hard disk, replacing whatever was there before, no matter what it was. The previous operating system, along with everything else on the hard disk, will be overwritten and replaced with the contents of the image backup.

The real question is: will the result work?

Most of time, the answer is no.

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How do I transfer my system to a replacement drive?

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My hard drive states that failure is imminent and I should replace it immediately. My questions are as follows: When I replace my hard drive, will I need to install a new operating system? Is there a way to clone my current hard drive completely including my operating system? If I am able to clone my entire hard drive, will I need hardware or some device to set up between the old hard drive and the new while I do the transfer? What is the best way to save my existing files if I can’t salvage my entire hard drive? Are there software programs that can help me do this?

There are indeed programs that can help.

They’re called “backup programs”.

While there are many, many ways to do what you’re looking to do, I’m going to review what I think is the most appropriate way.

In fact, it’s the exact way that I frequently do exactly what you’re asking about.

Read moreHow do I transfer my system to a replacement drive?

How do I secure a hard drive before sending it in for repair?

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How does one secure a hard drive while sending the computer to a repair facility? I have personal financial information on my hard drive and will just a password provide sufficient protection while the computer is in the shop? After the fact, is there maybe a way to find out if someone has copied the files?

What you’ve presented is actually quite a dilemma.

To answer the second part first: no. There’s simply no way to determine if your files have been copied – at least not in any way that absolutely says they were copied with malicious intent.

The problem is, there’s really no fool-proof solution to your scenario. In fact, I’ve heard of companies occasionally electing not to repair a hard drive, because it meant that sensitive data might be visible to repair technicians.

Your options to secure a hard drive are limited, but if you can plan ahead, there’s a chance.

Read moreHow do I secure a hard drive before sending it in for repair?

Should I Partition My Hard Disk?

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What are the benefits of a partitioned hard drive, or some practical uses of a partition?

Disk partitioning is one of those things where you find many conflicting opinions. Some will swear that proper partitioning aids performance, makes backing up easier and is just generally “better”.

Others just opt to let Windows sort it all out, believing that improper partitioning might well prevent the file system – already optimized for both safety and performance – from operating in a maximally optimal way.

The truth is somewhere in between, I’m certain.

While I tend to fall into the latter camp, I’ll look at some of the pros and cons to partitioning your hard drive, and make a recommendation if after all is said and done you’re still not sure.

Read moreShould I Partition My Hard Disk?

Can I stop an “idle” computer from hitting the hard disk at all?

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My hard drive is rather old. I’ve already lost one with all of my data on it, so I don’t want to repeat that again. Without money to get a new one, I thought I’d relieve my hard drive of any unnecessary load. Obviously, I stopped things like indexing and particular services that access the hard drive and I’ve even killed the paging file. I know, but I’ve got enough RAM not to run out of RAM and I don’t need a paging file. All of these helped quite a bit, but I’ve still got some disk activity from Windows. Is there any way to make Windows load itself into RAM and then stop system and svchost.exe entries from making the constant disk activity and therefore slowly killing my hard drive?

Absolute zero disk activity? No, I don’t believe you can accomplish this in any practical way.

I have at least one idea that will get you about 90% of the way there, but I just don’t think the extra effort that you’re going through is going to help your hard drive.

I’ll explain.

Read moreCan I stop an “idle” computer from hitting the hard disk at all?

Why Am I Getting “Open Block” Errors from My Photo Program?

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My operating system is Windows Vista. The problem software is Picasa. I’ve used it for a long time without problems. Now, I’m getting several error messages when I open it. They all begin with “”CBlockFile::Open Block err=10″” They are as follows (various list of filenames that are associated with this error). I’ve taken off the software and I’ve reapplied it several times. I’ve had many conversations with Picasa; they’ve tried to help me but with no success. Any suggestions?

I could be wrong, but I suspect your hard disk either has or is developing a problem.

In this case, make sure you’re backed up! You don’t want to lose those pictures!

Read moreWhy Am I Getting “Open Block” Errors from My Photo Program?

Checking and Repairing a Disk with CHKDSK

CHKDSK has been around since before the days of Windows. This utility has in some ways changed dramatically for new environments and new disk formats. Yet in other ways, it’s pretty much the same old disk checking utility that we’ve been using since the days of DOS.

Regardless of its age or origins, CHKDSK is an important tool for disk maintenance and recovery (in some cases) from a variety of disk-related issues.

Let’s run CHKDSK.

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How do I fix errors on my hard disk?

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Hi, I have a Computer running Windows XP SP2 that keeps returning a G:|$mft corrupt error. I have looked everywhere to try and find a fix for this, but to no avail. It would appear to not effect anything except for the error message popping up and the system wanting to check disk on boot every time. Any clues?

I don’t have anything specific to that error, but what I’ll do instead is outline the various steps I take when attempting to diagnose and repair a problem of this nature.

Depending on the underlying cause, this could be a simple fix, or a disaster waiting to happen.

Read moreHow do I fix errors on my hard disk?