Accessing hard drive using USB enclosure

posted in: Data recovery | 149

If for some reason your notebook fails to boot and you need to access data on the hard drive (I assume there is nothing wrong with the hard drive itself), you can use an external USB enclosure. This method is very simple and could be very useful when you need an emergency access to your data on the hard drive.
First of all you’ll have to buy an external USB enclosure for notebook hard drives. These enclosures are inexpensive and usually you can buy them in any local computer store. You also can find a wide variety of external enclosures on the Internet. Make sure to buy a correct one, enclosures for ATA and SATA hard drives are different (the connector inside the case will be different). Usually the enclosure includes the case and the USB cables.

External USB enclosure

Now remove the hard drive from the laptop. For this example I’m using an ATA hard drive.

Notebook hard drive

Open up the enclosure case and connect the hard drive to the connector inside. After that insert the hard drive into the case.

Assemble enclosure

After everything is assembled, you are ready to connect this device to any working computer (notebook or PC). The enclosure cable usually has two USB connectors on one end, make sure both of them are connected to the computer. You don’t need any external power supply for the enclosure because the hard drive gets power through USB ports. If the computer you are connecting the enclosure to runs Windows 2000 or higher, you will not need any device drivers. As soon as you connect the enclosure to the computer, the external hard drive should be detected and recognized automatically. After that the external hard drive will appear in My Computer and you can access it as any other hard drive in the computer.

Connect enclosure to computer

If you are getting “Access denied” message when you are trying to access your files on the hard drive, you’ll have to take ownership of a file or folder.

My previous post explains how to connect a notebook hard drive to a desktop PC via IDE hard drive adapter.


149 Responses

  1. Priscilla,

    I was wondering how do I know which type of hard drive I have. Sata or ata?

    You’ll have to take a look at the hard drive connector.
    If you see two rows or pins, this is ATA hard drive.
    If you see two flat connectors, this is SATA hard drive.

    ATA vs SATA hard drive

  2. Priscilla

    Hi I was wondering how do I know which type of hard drive I have. Sata or ata?

  3. jon lark,

    this article is out of date you can now purchase a multi purpose usb dongle without shell that has ide sata ability for about 26 bucks from several computer part websites

    Why multi purpose USB dongle is better? It’s more expensive than enclosure. Also, if you buy an enclosure you can use the harddrive as an external storage later.
    The multi purpose dongle is good for one time recovery and computer shops using it on daily basis.

  4. jon lark

    this article is out of date you can now purchase a multi purpose usb dongle without shell that has ide sata ability for about 26 bucks from several computer part websites

  5. I purchased a 2.5″ USB 2.0 SATA Hard Drive HDD Case Enclosure and then put my laptop hard drive into it. When I connect the usb cable to another computer it is not recognizing the drive at all. I even restarted computer and it is still not recognizing the drive. The reason for my trying this is that my laptop died and I am trying to recover data on the hard drive. Any suggestions to have the other pc recognize the drive?

  6. K Lewis,

    Would these instructions also apply to an Apple laptop? I have an older G4 titanium unit that has some very expensive programs on it and I failed to back them up so was wondering if this would apply to my Apple laptop.

    I think so. Apple use same hardware as PCs. You’ll have to install your hard drive into the external USB enclosure and connect this enclosure to another Apple computer (to make sure it can recognize apple file system on the external drive).

  7. Would these instructions also apply to an Apple laptop? I have an older G4 titanium unit that has some very expensive programs on it and I failed to back them up so was wondering if this would apply to my Apple laptop. Thanks

  8. Mikie,

    I think you are looking at the recovery partition.
    If the main partition doesn’t appear in My Computer, it’s possible the partition or file structure corrupted.
    Take a look at the external hard drive in Disc Management utility on your new Dell Laptop. Can you see the main partition in there?
    Most likely scanning the external hard drive with data recovery software (GetDataBack for ntfs for example) will give you some results.

  9. Great article. I took the project on but am not having much success. I removed a 2.5″ SATA drive from my Dell M1210 laptop and put it in a IMicro enclosure with USB connection. Using my new Windows 7 Dell laptop, in Windows Explorer, I see the old drive as “Recovery (E:)” with 9.36 GB free of 9.99 GB. Folders show (in example) Dell, Program files, Sources, Tools, Windows, Users. I can open and there are subfolders and if I force it gobbledygook seems to come up. I THINK I am seeing just the Recovery partition of the old drive and not the main partition with my “real” data such as “My Documents, etc”. Any suggestions and/or solutions?

  10. John,

    I have purchased a USB enclosure and want to back up files on my laptop (which is fried apart from the hard drive) to my desktop. However, when I connect the drive to the desktop PC and view files, the only user accounts visible are Default, Guest, and Public. The admin account that I need access to does not display.

    Are you searching in the right location?
    In Windows Vista the main account would be located in C:\Users folder.

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