When your hard drive fails, it can cause your entire computer to stop working, making it very difficult to get your files back. For the best chance at getting your data transferred off your dead hard drive you should take it to the professionals at a place like Colorado Computers, but if you feel comfortable doing so, there are a few things you can try first.
Connect It To A Working Computer
If you only have one hard drive in your computer, and/or the broken drive runs your operating system, this makes it impossible to access your data even if the rest of your computer is working fine. One way to get around this is by connecting the dead drive to a working computer, and then accessing it as a secondary or backup drive. There are two ways you can do this.
- Connect the drive externally via USB as a backup drive. You can do this by purchasing a universal adapter, which you connect the dead drive to, and then connect to your working computer via USB. Once connected, you should be able to browse your old hard drive much as you would a flash drive you just plugged in and transfer the data off it.
- Connect the drive internally as a secondary drive. This gets a little more complicated, but in this case you're essentially installing a second hard drive into your computer. Once connected, you can access the second hard drive from My Computer, then begin transferring your files over.
There is a caveat to this method: it will only work if your hard drive has suffered a logical failure rather than a mechanical failure. If the drive is physically damaged, it will not work when attached to any computer. In cases of physical damage, you'll need to hire a professional to get the data for you. The good news is that even physically damaged drives still likely have all your data, even if you can't access it yourself.
Use Data Recovery Software
Sometimes recovering your data isn't as simple as plugging in your dead drive and browsing its files. If the drive is old or was experiencing a type of logical failure, you may need some extra help piecing your data back together before you can retrieve it. This is where data recovery software comes in handy. While often used to recover deleted files, the way it does this can also help you find files from a drive that isn't working properly. To simplify how it works, recovery software seeks out traces of your data on your hard drive that might be fragmented or that you don't have access to and puts it back together, doing all the technical work and searching for you.
Data recovery software usually costs money, so it's worth researching the best software, then seeking out a free trial; if you can't grab any files using a free trial, the problem is likely something the software cannot handle, so test it first.
Give It To The Pros
When in doubt or when all else has failed, you can hire professionals to retrieve your data for you. This can get a little expensive, which is why it's worth trying whatever options you're comfortable with first, but professional data transfer services can pull data off even heavily damaged or malfunctioning drives.
Of course, these services aren't a guarantee, so it's worth doing research. Pricing is important, but prior experience is another, especially if it's experience working with the type of hard drive you have or the brand you use. You can also call and ask questions about the cost, what will happen with your hard drive, and what to expect overall. Read any contracts or pamphlets to make sure you know exactly what you're getting; if nothing else, you can simply refuse service and try someone else. Your data is valuable and is worth this level of care.