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

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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. 38
    pretorian Says:

    got a external drive that i have connected to a xp laptop by a usb adapter cable i put it in a external drive case and it does not show
    up at all under the drives in xp device mangager though it spins and lights up – the drive in the laptop keep showing up as aragon i think it may be a curpt xp how can i get this drive to be seen so i can wipe it clean and start over. – email me at above address if you have any ideas thanks.

  2. 37
    James H Godfrey Says:

    Which external USB enclosure do you recommend to remove data from a Dell Inspiron 300M hard drive? Thanks

  3. 36
    Jon Says:

    Hello,
    I bought an external HD enclosure to put my other laptop HD into, because the laptop would no loger boot and I need the info off of the HD.
    When I view the disk drives in the device manager the external drive sows up. However the Drive letters are the same on the external as they are on this computer. I have tried going to the Compter Management / Disk Management to change the deive letters but the external does not show up here.
    How can I change the Drvie letters of the external so I can transfer the files?
    Thank for the help.
    Jon

  4. 35
    cj2600 Says:

    Jug,

    why did my HD not work properly the first time

    Apparently there was a problem withe the file structure or with the hard drive itself. See comment 34.

    what did I probably lose: the enclosure (this would be OK), or the HD (this would be bad)

    I hope the enclosure. The only way to find out is testing it with another enclosure. I really think that you burnet the enclosure, not the hard drive.

  5. 34
    cj2600 Says:

    Peter,

    When I turned it on my desktop did recognize the new hardware and installed drivers for it. But now I can’t find the drive under “my computer.”

    It’s possible that there is a problem with the partition/file structure or with the hard drive. You can try this. Left-click on the start menu (Window icon in the lower left corner) and then right-click on Computer. Click on Manage. Now select (left-click) Disk Management.
    If your external had drive was detected by the computer, you should see this hard drive in Disk Management.
    Normally, if there is nothing wrong with the hard drive, it will say something like this: (C:) 55.89GB NTFS Healthy etc…
    What do you see in your case?

  6. 33
    cj2600 Says:

    Diane,

    I have an old Toshiba laptop with a dead lcd display. I want to hook it up to my new Dell laptop lcd display in order to clean out all the files before I get rid of it. How can I connect the old laptop to display on my new laptop lcd?

    You cannot output video on another laptop LCD screen, but you can on an external monitor (LCD or CRT). Connect your monitor to the VGA port on the Toshiba laptop (it’s D-shaped and has 15 holes) and restart the laptop. If video doesn’t appear on the external monitor, use Fn + one of the F-keys in the top row in order to switch video output from internal to external.

  7. 32
    Jug Says:

    I put my toshiba MK4032GAX (that crashed twice) in a standard enclosure (Aikuo AI-EN2501).
    After I plugged it to my computer, the computer seems to detect a USB storage drive but I can’t see any hard drive.

    I stupidly thought this might be due to a wrong plugg inside the enclosure so I flipped the drive and replugged th enclusure.

    This time, the light blinked several times and I started smelling an electronical-burning smell…

    I have two questions:
    1- why did my HD not work properly the first time
    2- what did I probably lose: the enclosure (this would be OK), or the HD (this would be bad)

    Thanks a lot for your help

    Jug

  8. 31
    Peter Says:

    I followed your instructions about buying and using a USB enclosure for notebook hard drives. When I turned it on my desktop did recognize the new hardware and installed drivers for it. But now I can’t find the drive under “my computer.” It appears that it might have something to do with partioning my hard drive (which I don’t know how to do). Desktop uses Vista and hard drive is from an older Dell laptop using XP. Can you help?

  9. 30
    Diane Says:

    I have an old Toshiba laptop with a dead lcd display. I want to hook it up to my new Dell laptop lcd display in order to clean out all the files before I get rid of it. How can I connect the old laptop to display on my new laptop lcd?

  10. 29
    Jim Pan Says:

    I recently upgrade my PS3 20GB to 120GB. I purchased a SATA USB enclosure. It worked with 120GB but no the 20GB. I put the 20GB back to PS3 and it finds it. I put it to the USB enclosure and connect to either laptop or desktop with no success. It look likes PC does not detect any usb connection. If the drive is bad, at least the PC will told me. I download Gparted Live CD and it does not detect any external HDD. I know the USB enclosure is working since I use other HDD and PC finds it. I have no clues, please help.

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