Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 has several built-in utilities that allow you to recover data. But what if your drive won’t boot? Here’s how to get it.
At some point or another, technology can and will fail us. For this, we should regularly implement backup strategies to protect our data. We store a lot of important information on our computers and devices; documents, photos, and videos; so losing them can be a terrible regret. Thankfully, Windows includes a host of solutions that makes backing up your information simple. Whether it’s Backup and Restore, System Imaging, File History, or OneDrive. In this article, we discuss a situation that can be a tough one to overcome, what happens if your computer is not booting?
Recover Data Non-booting Hard Drive
For me, this was a reality I recently experienced. I had already backed up recently, but I had also created new content that I didn’t want to lose either. After exhausting a number of repair options, I could not get Windows to boot successfully. I even attempted the Refresh options. Of course, I could try doing a custom install and salvage my data from Windows.old. Unfortunately, I was in a bind, no working optical drive, or a USB stick I could use. So I thought of the next option; putting the hard disk in an external hard disk enclosure, connect it to a working computer, and copy over my data and so this is what I ended up doing.
Obtain an External Hard Disk Enclosure
This is the first thing you will need to have. They are quite cheap and you can use it also with an existing hard disk as an external storage device. An enclosure is basically a housing that protects the drive and allows you to connect it to a USB, FireWire, or eSATA port. You can pick up an enclosure for between $20 to $50 on B&H or Amazon. They are available in 3.5-inch (standard desktop) or 2.5-inch (notebook) sizes. Make sure you pick the proper internal interface—IDE/ATA or SATA, based on the type of drive you are using.
Uninstall Non-booting Hard Drive
You will need to remove the hard disk from the system unit in order to install it in the external enclosure. The process will vary depending on the build, model, and form factor. Consult the manufacturer’s documentation that came with your computer, or review the manufacturer’s website. Some are easy and simply require pressing a latch mechanism to release the hard disk from its drive bay.
Other configurations might require removing a mounting mechanism especially if it is a 2.5-inch drive. Be prepared to have essential tools such as a Torx 5 point screwdriver and or flat head screwdriver. If you plan on building your own computers or doing these types of repairs often…get yourself a decent set of tools in a computer repair kit.
This particular configuration uses a 2.5-inch drive on a 3.5-inch mount. You will also notice the green latch mechanism for releasing the drive from its bay.
Install Hard Drive in External Enclosure
Installing in the enclosure should be easy. Depending on the enclosure you buy, you might need to make some manual adjustments. Some might simply require you to just insert the drive and that’s it. In the following picture, my external enclosure requires I connect the SATA cables to the drive manually. A very easy thing to do. As you can see in the above picture, this external enclosure also supports PATA drives too. Once you have installed the drive and ensured it’s connected securely, I can insert it into the protective casing.
Connect USB and Power Cables
The next step is to connect the drive to your computer. There is nothing to it since this experience will be just like connecting a regular external hard drive. Once the drive is turned on, Windows will automatically detect the drive and install it. You’ll either be prompted to browse for it, or you can access it from File Explorer.
Recovering the Data
Now we would expect to just browse the hard drive and copy over our data. Because the installation that exists on the drive is still protecting the folders with your data, you’ll get an error message if you try to open and browse the folder. If you are unable to open this folder after clicking Continue, review our article for instructions about taking ownership of a folder.
Now you can browse the User folder and proceed to copy over your data. Here I am Preparing to copy over data from the external hard drive to my local hard drive.
When you are sure you have recovered your data from the hard drive, you can format and repartition the drive if you wish. Remember to browse the common locations where data is stored such as your User folder C:\Users and C:\Users\Public. Also, if you have unstructured information such as Sticky Notes, you can find those in C:\Users\YourAccountName\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Sticky Notes, copy the file StickyNotes.snt into its respective directory. This drive, in particular, had experienced one too many power outages resulting in the corrupt installation of Windows.