How do I get data off of the hard drive in a dead computer?


Retrieving data from a hard drive that is installed in a non-working or dead computer can be accomplished a couple of ways. You can either attempt to retrieve the data yourself or take the computer to a computer shop for help.

Fix the dead computer

If you have not yet troubleshot the computer or do not know what is causing its problems we recommend first diagnosing the computer. In many cases, it may be possible to fix the dead computer which would allow you to recover its data easier.

Note: If you have troubleshot the computer and know it cannot be recovered or is too expensive to fix this section can be skipped.

Below is a list of pages that can help troubleshoot a dead computer. If the computer is giving you an error message, you can also search our site for the error message to find recommendations and solutions to many error messages.

Connect hard drive to another computer

You can attempt to retrieve the data yourself by connecting the hard drive from the dead computer to another functional computer. Assuming the hard drive is still functional, you can then access that hard drive through My Computer or File Explorer to view and copy files from the hard drive. The following steps guide you through this process.

Note: If this is a laptop computer unless the hard drive is accessible through an access panel on the bottom of the laptop we suggest taking the computer to a repair shop.

  1. Open the computer case of the dead computer and disconnect the hard drive from inside the computer.
  2. Turn off the functional computer.
  3. Open the case of the functional computer and connect the hard drive to the computer. You need to connect the IDE or SATA cable, depending on the type of hard drive, and the power cable.

Tip: You can also use an external hard drive enclosure kit to connect the hard drive to the computer externally, through a USB port.

  1. Turn on the functional computer.
  2. Once loaded into Windows, open My Computer or File Explorer and find the drive letter (e.g. D: or E:). Click or double-click on that drive to view the contents of the hard drive.

Once the hard drive has been successfully connected to another computer, and you can view the files, you can copy the files to the functional computer’s hard drive, burn the files to a CD or DVD disc, or copy them to a USB thumb drive.

If after connecting the hard drive to the functional computer, you are unable to view the contents of that hard drive, the drive may be bad or inaccessible. It may be necessary to take the hard drive to a computer shop for help in retrieving files from it.

Take the hard drive to a computer shop

If the hard drive is bad and unreadable by another computer, it is recommended you take the hard drive to a computer shop for help with retrieving the files. A computer shop may be able to extract data from the hard drive by means not available to you.

However, if they are unable to extract data from the hard drive, it may be necessary to send the hard drive to a company that specializes in retrieving data from failed hard drives. See our page on how to recover missing, lost, or deleted files for a list of some companies that specialize in data retrieval.

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