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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  1. 58
    Chris Says:

    I recieved the SATA USB enclosure today and put my laptop HDD into it.
    Windows XP came up with a message saying “New hardware found; USB mass storage device” and about 60 seconds later it said;
    “A probem occurred during hardware installation. Your new hardware might not work properly.”

    I can’t see the HDD anywhere in My computer or Disk Management.
    I can see it show up in Device manager under USB controllers as “USB mass storage device” but only for about 60 seconds then it disappears. Also, when I right click on USB mass storage device in the device manager and click on properties > driver, it says that a driver is NOT installed.

    Do you think the reason why it is not showing up in My computer/disk management is because Windows XP has failed to install a driver for it/ recognise it?

    I don’t understand why it isn’t showing up, please help.

  2. 57
    Marilyn Says:

    I cannot boot up into windows so before I do a destruction recover I would like to take all my pictures and files off my hard drive. I bought a case enclosure and hooked it up to another computer, but cannot find my pictures or word documents. I only found one file with pictures. Are they hidden somewhere?

  3. 56
    Chris Says:

    I accidently killed my laptop a few days ago when I spilt a pint of water all over it.
    I would like to sell the HD which is still working, but it still has all my data on it (some of which includes passwords, etc).

    How do I safely wipe the HD using an external USB enclosure so the buyer cannot access/get back my files?

  4. 55
    cj2600 Says:


    I tried using the Filerecovery program but that wouldn’t let me into the Documents and Settings folder to gain access to My Documents. (This is where all the files I need to retrieve are located).

    Are you getting an error message trying to access My Documents? What happens when you try to access My Documents?

  5. 54
    Som.Gii Says:

    Hello all, I’m having some serious issues with my Lappy HD.

    Firstly when i plug it in it takes a while to register in my OS (XP Home). The when it does my computer freezes until I unplug it. This all came about when one day the Laptop decided to bluescreen every time it got turned on and then it rebooted. Nothing would work in terms of booting into windows. Not even Safe Mode.

    I tried using the Filerecovery program but that wouldn’t let me into the Documents and Settings folder to gain access to My Documents. (This is where all the files I need to retrieve are located).

    The Lappy HD is an ATA NTFS Formatted drive. For reference I’ve tried a different Lappy HD and that works fine.

    Any light would be gratefully apprecciated! Thanks for your time.


  6. 53
    cj2600 Says:


    I have Hitachi HDD for my laptop.I am not able to find pins on this drive to connect it with hardisk enclouser.

    If you cannot see pins, apparently you have a SATA hard dive. You’ll have to find enclosure for SATA drives.

  7. 52
    Mandeep Says:

    I have Hitachi HDD for my laptop.I am not able to find pins on this drive to connect it with hardisk enclouser.Please help me how to connect it with enclouser

  8. 51
    stevo Says:

    10x for the great article!

  9. 50
    Dan Says:

    I am having similar issues. My Dell laptop crashed earlier this week giving me a “No boot sector of hard drive,” message when I tried to reboot after receiving the blue screen of death. After reading similar forums, I purchased a USB adapter for my old HD. I’ve attached the HD to another functioning laptop via the USB, but it is not listed under “My computer.” Actually tried this with 2 different computers- one with vista and one with xp. Again, after visiting other forums, I went to the Disk management section and “initialized” the drive, however, I still cannot find it anywhere else on the computer to access the files. As well as being listed under Drive maint, it’s also listed when I select to “safely remove hardware.” I’m not the most computer savvy person but was hoping to save myself the $100 I was quoted for professional data retrieving service. However, after wasting most of my weekend toying with it, I’m starting to think shelling out the cash may be easier. This is my last ditch effort. Any suggestions on how to access the data on the drive?

    2 other quick points: 1) I hear the drive spinning when connected and 2)there are 4 other prongs on the HD which are not encorporated into the adapter, could that be a problem?

  10. 49
    cj2600 Says:

    Kenn Johnston,

    Right clicking on the drive in disc manager the only available option is “remove this partition.” Will selecting that option that delete my data?

    DO NOT DELETE THE PARTITION, it will make the data recovery process even harder.
    If the hard drive will not show up in My Computer, apparently the file structure on the drive is corrupted. You’ll have to use data recovery software.

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