How to Recover Files From a Hard Drive That Won't Boot

By Quinten Plummer

A virus infection, a logical failure or mechanical wear-and-tear can damage the structure of your hard drive's file system and prevent your hard drive from booting up properly, or at all. And though remedying severe boot issues with a hard drive may not be possible, at least without overwriting your files, there is a way to salvage valuable data from your old drive.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Second computer

Step 1

Power down the computer that won't boot. Disconnect the computer's power cable and any other cables attached to it. Place the computer on a stable work surface.

Step 2

Use an appropriately sized Philips or flat head screwdriver to remove the screws that secure the case to the computer. Set the screws aside. Or disengage latches that secure the computer's casing. Remove the case from the computer.

Step 3

Locate your computer's hard drive. It'll be stored in the metal drive bay, adjacent to the motherboard. Disconnect the power and data cable from the back of the hard drive. Remove the screws that are securing the hard drive to the bay---there will be screws on both sides of the bay.

Step 4

Open the case of the computer containing the working hard drive. Power down the computer, disconnect the cables and then open the computer.

Step 5

Slide the original hard drive out of the bay. Use a set of tweezers to remove the cap covering the jumper pins at the back of the hard drive and then slide the drive into a free slot in the hard drive bay on the second computer.

Step 6

Secure the hard drive into the drive bay using the screws you removed from the original computer. Connect a power and a data cable to the back of the hard drive.

Step 7

Reassemble the second computer---replace the case, screws and cable. Power on the computer. After the operating system loads, your hard drive will appear as a secondary drive. Drag and drop any desired files from the original hard drive to an empty folder on the desktop.

Step 8

Download and install a copy of a data recovery utility, such as PC Inspector Smart Recovery or VaioSoft Recovery Manager, if the hard drive is inaccessible and can't be readily read on the second computer (see Resources, below).

Tips & Warnings

  • Do not attempt any repairs if your computers are not completely disconnected from power sources. You risk injury and severe damage to your computer.