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. I fixed the hard drive with the casing as described and connected to my desk top USB having Windows 7 but it is not showing up. What could be the problems. I already checked the connector of hard drive and casing and done it 2-3 times but it does’nt work. Also a beep sound is emerging from the hard drive. Pl suggest any solution.

  2. @ Petes,

    To test an enclosure is it possible to connect it without the hdd?

    I don’t think the laptop will see the enclosure as a USB device if the hard drive not connected.
    You’ll have to connect the hard drive to the enclosure.

  3. To test an enclosure is it possible to connect it without the hdd???

  4. klprasad

    will you please help me to buy external case for my loptop HP DV04-1414tx.where it is available in bangalore either INDIRA NAGAR or in MG ROAD.please mention which company name which one is good to buy

  5. i have a problem any help please ??
    what i have is an ex laptop hdd now an external hdd with the vista operating system still on it with 2partitons boot and recover
    i was able to view most files but could not see documents and settings folder or my music,my pictures folders etc
    so i check to make sure hidden files was turned off and still no luck, so then i took ownership of the drive but still unable to see these folders
    so then i tried a linux distro and i can see documents and settings folder but it is a shortcut and can see my pictures,my music folder but they shown a file is missing or unknown if i click them i just get an error file missing or deleted
    any1 experienced this before and have any ideas ??


  6. Often users wonder how to backup files to a USB hard drive. This is an issue because some drives do not contain software to do the job. Microsoft released a tool called “ROBOCOPY” in Windows Vista, and 2008 Server that does a good job of synchronizing drives.
    For Pre-Vista Computers
    XCOPY use to be the tool of choice, but when encountering path and file names greater than 255 characters, XCOPY will generate an out of memory error and exit. If you are using a Windows XP or 2003 Server computer, ROBOCOPY can be downloaded from Microsoft in the “Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit Tools” located at:
    Once you have downloaded and installed the resource kit tools, search for “ROBOCOPY*.*” and copy it to “C:\Windows\System32”. This will make the program available anywhere.
    Creating the Backup Script
    On the backup drive, we will create a one line batch file that contains the backup command. This batch file should be located on the backup drive. We want it here so that no matter what letter the drive is assigned, the backups will run.
    Using “Note Pad”, we will create a file called “Backup.BAT” and save it to your backup drive. The file should contain the following command:
    ROBOCOPY c:\ .\Backup\ /e /w:1 /r:1
    This will back up the whole hard drive to a folder called “Backup” where ever the “Backup.BAT” file is located: on the backup drive.
    How it Works
    ROBOCOPY will only copy the changed files, skipping a majority of the files that have not changed. If a file is in use or cannot be copied, ROBOCOPY will nicely skip the file and move on. This ensures that the backup will be completed to the best of the computer’s ability.
    If you have Outlook or QuickBooks on your computer, you will want to make sure that those programs are closed before doing a back. If you leave these programs open, the backup will skip their important data files.

    Shawn Zernik
    Internetwork Consulting

  7. Justine

    I recently dropped my laptop (while having a heart attack), it smashed beyond repair. Now that I am back on my feet again, I am in need of getting the files of my hard drive. My question is, for someone who can read and follow directions is this a good do-it-yourself option or should I just pay the $270.00 rate that the local computer store (great small town living :( )is wanting to charge me? Any advice would be appreciated. THANKS!

  8. Hi,

    I’ve been trying to do this, however, I have done all of the things you have suggested and I have the message that all drivers have been installed for the HD but I cannot find it on My Computer. It is in Disk Management but all I can do is Initialse, which from what I understand is formatting it?

    Help please! Thank you for your time :)

  9. cj2600


    I am taking the hard drive from my macbook and have placed it in a hard drive enclosure. I have connected it to my PC (running windows vista) and am trying to back it up but the drive does not show up anywhere? Any idea on why and how I can access this drive?

    Windows OS cannot read Mac file system. In order to back up data you’ll have to connect enclosure to another Mac computer.

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