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.

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148 Comments

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  1. 18
    Randall Says:

    I have an older IDE hard drive I would like to put into an enclosure. The laptop it came out of was using Windows98 in FAT32. I am now running Windows XP NTCS. Will the newer system read the older file structure if used as a external slave drive?

  2. 17
    conchquest Says:

    Now, on to my question. After fitting my laptop’s hard drive into the enclosure and connecting the USB cable to a desk top computer, the drive lights up, spins up and the desktop recognizes that a usb device has been attached. It even recognizes the model name and number (dara-218000 appears). However, the drive doesn’t appear as an icon in “My Computer”. Therefore, I can’t yet open the drive and access the files. Any suggestions?

  3. 16
    conchquest Says:

    For Ashley- I had a similar situation with my Dell laptop hard drive and the enclosure that I bought. At first, it seemed that the two were incompatible. However, after doing some research on the web I figured out that the hard drive had a removable adapter already attached to it. The adapter gave the drive a “female” interface. By pulling this plastic piece off, the pins were revealed that allowed the drive to connect to the enclosure. Check to see if your facing the same situation.

  4. 15
    cj2600 Says:

    Ashley,
    I don’t known how I can help you. If you buy external serial ATA enclosures for notebook hard drives they should work with serial ATA notebook hard drives. Make sure you are buying a correct one. Take your hard drive to a local computer shop and show it to the salesman.

  5. 14
    Ashley Says:

    My laptop stopped working about a week ago. The lights turn on but nothing comes on the screen, apparently something happened with the motherboard. I have alot of information I need off of the harddrive, and do not have the money to get the laptop fixed. I bought two different external enclosures, but neither of them will connect to my Harddrive. (which is a serial ATA) I’m afraid to buy another one, because the last two, which said were for serial ata’s, did not connect. Any suggestions?

  6. 13
    cj2600 Says:

    Jay53,
    Most external USB enclosure cables have two USB connectors on one end, as it shown on the last picture. Make sure you plug both USB connectors into the computer. One USB port does not provide enough power to fire up the hard drive and it will not work properly. So, make sure to use both USB ends.
    Definitely try playing with the Master/Slave jumper if you have it installed on your hard drive. First, remove the jumper and test if the hard drive is detected. Second, set the jumper to master and try again.
    From my experience, this setup should work without any jumper.

  7. 12
    Jay53 Says:

    In an attempt to recover data from a hard drive in a laptop with a motherboard problem, I tried an external USB enclosure and so far have had no success. I installed the laptop drive in the enclosure and connected it to a desktop running Windows XP. The indicator light on the enclosure came on immediately when I plugged it into a USB port, and it sounded like the hard drive was spinning. But the desktop gave no indication that it was seeing the laptop/USB drive after many, many minutes. No messages of any kind – errors or otherwise. The same thing happened when I tried to connect the USB enclosure to another laptop.

    One thing I did not do was mess with the jumper on the laptop hard drive that sets it to be master, slave, etc. Could the jumper setting affect the ability of the host PC to detect the USB drive?

  8. 11
    cj2600 Says:

    Cat,
    You can try using GetDataBack software made by Runtime software. Really good stuff. I think you’ll be able to find your data if you do raw data scan.
    But before you buy any software, try accessing the drive with Knoppix (live Linux CD). Knoppix is free and I find it VERY helpful when Windows tools are useless. Boot the computer from the Knoppix CD and click on the drive with data, see if Knoppix can recognize the file structure and mount the drive. If it can, burn data on a CD/DVD or transfer to an external drive with FAT32.
    That’s my best guess.

  9. 10
    Cat Says:

    I am having the same issue at ST and I tried the XP also and got the same message. And there are no other ideas to access the drive? There surely must be or how else can the professional service people get in to the drive?

  10. 9
    cj2600 Says:

    ST,
    Try connecting the hard drive to a XP machine.

    “the disk in drive H must be formatted before use”

    I think this message indicates a problem with the file system on your notebook hard drive. If you are getting the same error message on XP machine, I would suggest using professional data recovery service.

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