How to recover/read data from a hard drive.

Recover / Read Data from a Hard Drive

You turn on your computer, then you get one of these messages:

  • Non-System disk or disk error, Replace and strike any key when ready
  • Disk Boot Error, Replace and Strike Key to Retry
  • DISK BOOT FAILURE, INSERT SYSTEM DISK AND PRESS ENTER
  • BOOT: Couldn't find NTLDR, Please insert another disk
Depending on the type of error, your OS is bad and won't load. But does that mean you have lost all of your data? Your pictures, music etc.. Not quite. Most of the time, you can still retrieve your data. After you have retrieved your data, then you can reformat the hard drive and reload the operating system or simply go buy another hard drive.

How To: 2.5" Laptop Drive Information

There are two types of hard drives. IDE and SATA. The only important difference for our purposes are the connections for both desktop and laptop hard drives.  As you will notice in the images below, desktop and laptop connections differ.

  • Required Equipment. You will need a USB to SATA/IDE connector. You can purchase this at ALTEX or Geeks.com The one picture below is from Geeks.com, and is much cheaper than ALTEX. They sell these with the connector by itself, and with the power supply. I recommend the package with the power supply.
  • USB 2.0 Cable
  • Below is a close up of the USB to SATA/IDE connector. You will notice a small (left side) connector and a big (right side) connector. The small connector is used for your 2.5" drives, or laptop drives while the big connector is used for your 3.5" drives, or desktop drives.
  • USB close up USB close up USB close up
  • Laptop Hard drive: Remove your hard drive from your laptop. Most of the laptops will have the hard drive accessible from the bottom of the hard drive. However, some of the newer models will have the hard drive underneath the keyboard or top of the laptop. Check your users manual on how to remove your laptop.
  • Laptop hard drive Laptop hard drive Laptop hard drive
  • Next we need to connect the laptop hard drive to the IDE connector, SMALL side ONLY. NOTE: The connector on the IDE cable is missing 1 hole. The laptop hard drive is also missing one little spoke. See image below. Make sure that when you connect the both together, that you fit them in the correct order.
  • connectors connectors
  • When you place the IDE connector on the laptop hard drive, the IDE connector will NOT cover all the spokes. See the image below. You will notice that on the right side, there will be spokes that will remain uncovered. This is normal.
  • connectors
  • Once aligned, push straight down, nice and firm.. but not TOO hard. These spokes can bend very easy if you don't connect the IDE connector correctly.
  • connectors
  • This is how it should look after you connect the IDE connector to the laptop hard drive.
  • connectors
  • Next, connect the connectors USB end to another computers USB port.
  • connectors
  • After a few seconds, your computer should recognize the newly connected hard drive as an external drive.  If auto-play displays, select the "Open folder to view files" option.  Finally, open up Windows Explore and locate the new DRIVE LETTER defined. Now you can access your laptop drive. You can simply copy any files you need from your laptop drive to another computer.
  • auto-play explore
  • WORST CASE: If your computer doesn't assign a new drive letter to your hard drive, then maybe your hard drive is completely dead. But before you give up, make sure you undo the connections and try it again. Make certain all pieces are aligned correctly. On top of the blue USB connector, there is a red light that will light once you establish a USB connection. Make sure the light is on. If not, try another USB port.

How To: 3.5" Desktop Drive Information

Following the information from the 2.5" drive, we continue with a 3.5" desktop hard drive.

  • Below is an image of a 3.5" hard drive.  As you will notice, these spokes are bigger than your laptop spokes. 
  • 3.5 drive
  • When you place the IDE connector on the desktop hard drive, the IDE connectors WILL cover all the spokes. Unlike the laptop hard drive, all spokes must be covered or the computer will not recognize your hard drive.
  • 3.5 hard drive & IDE connector
  • Once aligned, push straight down, nice and firm.. but not TOO hard. These spokes can bend very easy if you don't connect the IDE connector correctly.
  • Align pieces together Align pieces together
  • This is how it should look after you connect the IDE connector to the desktop hard drive.
  • connected pieces
  • In order to power this hard drive, we must now connect the power supply to the power section of the hard drive.
  • connected pieces
  • This is how it should look after you connect the IDE connector AND the power supply to the desktop hard drive.
  • connected pieces
  • Next, connect the connectors USB end to another computers USB port.
  • connectors
  • After a few seconds, your computer should recognize the newly connected hard drive as an external drive.  If auto-play displays, select the "Open folder to view files" option.  Finally, open up Windows Explore and locate the new DRIVE LETTER defined. Now you can access your laptop drive. You can simply copy any files you need from your laptop drive to another computer.
  • auto-play explore
  • WORST CASE: If your computer doesn't assign a new drive letter to your hard drive, then maybe your hard drive is completely dead. But before you give up, make sure you undo the connections and try it again. Make certain all pieces are aligned correctly. On top of the blue USB connector, there is a red light that will light once you establish a USB connection. Make sure the light is on. If not, try another USB port.

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