If you have ever suffered from a hard drive crash, you know how frustrating it can be. It can also mean a devastating loss of data or expensive data recovery services. But before you panic or shell out big bucks take a try at recovering the data yourself. First you need to determine if the system is completely dead, or the computer just can’t start the operating system. You should be able to tell this from the specific error message, or if you try to reinstall or repair Windows, it should let you know.
This article assumes that you couldn’t get the existing hard drive repaired, you assume it is still operable, and that you have another computer that works correctly. If you don’t have a second PC, borrow one from a friend or co-worker that is similar to yours. It doesn’t have to be the exact same model, but the same general type and age.
First, following the manufacturer’s instructions, open the case on both computers. You will want to unplug the electricity before you start working on the inside of the computer. Opening the computer is usually fairly easy and involves a button on the top or back, or thumbscrews on the back. Once you have the computer open, look for and identify the hard drive. To do this first identify the CD drive or floppy drive. This should be easy to do, by looking at the front of the computer. From the inside, the CD and/or DVD drives, the floppy drive, and the hard drive all look fairly similar. From the outside, you can identify everything except the hard drive and by process of elimination figure out which one it is on the inside.
Now you need to remove the hard drive from the bad computer. First, there are cables running into the back of it. One looks like a wide flat ribbon and this is the controller cable. The other is a small square plug with multi-colored wires and this is the power source. Unplug both of these. It may take a little more force than you think, especially with the power cord, but they will pull out.
Next, remove the hard drive itself. On newer machines, this may be a simple thumb lever or other device. On older models, you may need to remove a couple of screws. Again, refer to the manufacturer’s documentation or website if there are any questions.
Once you have the hard drive out, open the good computer in the same fashion. On this one, we aren’t going to remove anything, but simply unplug two of the same type cables. Instead of the cables connected to the hard drive, we are going to disconnect the CD or DVD drive. You don’t need to take anything else out. Now plug those cables into your hard drive. Note that the power plug only fits one way.
Now that you have the hard drive connected, plug up and start the good computer. If everything works according to plan, you should now have an extra hard drive on this computer, either a “D:”, “E:”, or “F:” drive depending on other peripherals. Now you can simply find and copy your data files from the old hard drive to the working one so that it can be backed up properly. Once done, replace the cables back into the CD drive and close the case back up.