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

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.

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What’s the difference between SATA and PATA and IDE?

This “SATA” stuff is new to me. What does it mean? It’s something about hard disk drives, I know, but I don’t understand what. I went to get a new hard drive for my machine and the one that I wanted was SATA. But when I told the salesperson what computer I had, he said I didn’t want it and instead, I needed something called PATA or IDE? I’m very confused.

Well, one part of this is easy: IDE and PATA are two names for the same thing.

The rest – well, the easy part is that SATA and PATA are two different ways of connecting a hard drive to your computer. Your computer will have one or the other, and what you purchase must, in general, match.

When we go further, however, things start to get a little complex.

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NAS Drive Failure: How I Dodged a Bullet

As you might imagine, I have a number of computers and related devices. For the last three and a half years, one of them has been a NetGear ReadyNAS branded NAS – Network Attached Storage.

It’s turned off now. I finished replacing it the other day, and I want to share why, some of the mistakes I made, some of the mistakes I didn’t make, and what I replaced it with.

And yes, how I dodged a bullet: a data loss bullet that had my name written all over it.

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

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.

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How do I protect the files on a portable hard drive?


Leo, I’m running Windows 7 with Microsoft Security Essentials. Five months ago I bought a Samsung portable external hard drive. It’s come to my notice that these removable media drives can become very vulnerable to virus and bugs affecting them. I’m extremely worried about this. My portable drive is about 1/3 full of video movies and flv and mp4 file types. I have hundreds of movies stored. I want to guarantee that they will remain safe and preserved for hopefully many decades to come. If a virus attacks these portable hard drives then they can shut down. I think one starts getting messages like this drive is not formatted. I want to be ahead of such problems and do all that I can to be sure that no harm comes to my files in the long-term. What can be done to insure longevity and safety to the drive and its contents?

I have some very specific ideas for you, but I also want to clear up a couple of very important misconceptions.

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How Should I Use My SSD and HD Together?


I’m building myself a new Windows 7 machine. It will have a 250 GB Solid State Drive; a 1 TB SATA 3 hard drive and a 250 GB IEE HD. I assume the OS will be on the Solid State Drive but what about the other programs? Will a dynamic partition be better? Does the 1 TB need to be only backup? Can I run the OS only from the Solid State Drive and programs from the 1 TB drive?

I’m not really sure by what you mean by IEE HD, but I do have some ideas on how to set this thing up. You can, of course, do whatever you really want and it will probably work just fine, but here’s the approach that I would take.

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

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?

Does Having Multiple Partitions Shorten My Hard Disk’s Life?

I have a Solid State Drive for Windows and applications and a hard drive for data. I also have some games on the hard drive. Right now, I have only two partitions: C and D (those are actually two drives, but yes, I get the idea). I want to know if having multiple partitions on my hard drive would shorten its life? For example, let’s say I have three partitions on my 1 TB hard drive. Partition D for games, partition E for data, and partition F for downloads. Now let’s assume that I would play a game and download a patch around 4 GB or a free game from Steam around 10 GB at the same time. Because all my downloads will be saved to partition F and my games are all installed on partition D, performing these two tasks would force my hard drive to move its head to and fro between its outer and inner edges of the platter. Right? So, would that affect my hard drive’s lifespan more than if it had been left as a single partition?

The really short answer is no. These would not affect your hard drive’s life span. But from the sound of your question, you’re making some assumptions here that aren’t really valid. Let’s take a closer look.

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Should I update my hard drive?

Could you please tell me if I should update my hard drive? My Dell computer is eight years old. I’ve seen where you should update your hard drive, but I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to change any settings. Would it do that? Should I do this?

I’m not sure where you’re seeing this information that says “you should” update your hard drive.

In my opinion (and I’ve said this many times in different scenarios), if your machine’s working and you’re happy with it, I wouldn’t go looking for trouble. You don’t need to upgrade a hard drive unless you actually have a reason.

What reasons could those be? Let’s look at some.

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Can I Move My Old Computer’s Hard Drive to My New Computer?

My sister has a computer with Windows 98se. However, it is crashing on her. She got a new computer with the latest Windows. My question is, can she install her old hard drive with 98se onto her new PC so she can transfer her files over to her new hard drive? She is very illiterate when it comes to computers.

The good news is that a working hard disk that was formatted for use by any prior versions of Windows can certainly be read by Windows versions that come later. Your Win 98 disk can be read by Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8.

The not-so-bad news is that you’ll have to open the box, extract the drive, and do something with it.

I’ll admit it – that’s not for everyone.

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How Do I Keep CHKDSK from Running on every Start Up?


I have a two year old laptop running Windows XP. I had run “Defrag” and also clicked on the check drive for errors option, which was then scheduled at next restart.

Now this scan program runs every time I start up. How can I shut this off?

Good news: we can turn it off.

Bad news: it means editing the registry.

The “I’m not so sure” news: you shouldn’t have to. It should have turned itself off, and I’m concerned that this might be trying to tell you something.

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