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. 78
    Robert Says:

    Hi,
    My Sony laptop didn’t boot and I proceeded the “Restore C: Drive”, meaning everything I had (software and files)was erased (I have a back up of only part of the files). Is it still possible to recover my files using an external USB enclosure?

  2. 77
    Anupriya Says:

    You are a lifesaver!
    My Acer just wouldn’t boot up and even though I have the proper Recovery disk and all, I suspect that would erase all my data.

    So I decided to yank the drive out, back up my C: drive and then reset the computer to default by using the recovery disc.
    Am I right in assuming I can just plug in my UATA Seagate 120 GB in an external enclosure and read/copy files off it? Are these discs any different to my normal backup disc because they have Windows XP and all that jazz in there as well?

    Anyway, a well written and illustrated guide. Well done!

    Anupriya

  3. 76
    cj2600 Says:

    Cherie,

    My husband just bought an EAGLE CONSUS portable 2.5 mesh external storage system, we hooked it up with the usb cords and it pops up with an option to safely remove the hardware; and shows that the system is running properly but it never pops up in my computer under the hard drives or removable hardware;

    We can feel the hard drive loading and the fan spinning what if any could be the reason the drive isn’t registering 100%

    Here’s my guess. Most likely the hard drive is working fine, but it’s not partitioned and formatted.
    Before you can use the hard drive, you’ll have to create a partition and format it.
    Go to Disc Management utility. Right click on My Computer – Manage – Disc Management. Can you see the hard drive in there?
    Right click on the hard drive, create a partition (primary partition) and format it with NTFS (you can use quick format).
    After it’s formatted, the hard drive should appear in My Computer and you can use it.

  4. 75
    Cherie Says:

    My husband just bought an EAGLE CONSUS portable 2.5 mesh external storage system, we hooked it up with the usb cords and it pops up with an option to safely remove the hardware; and shows that the system is running properly but it never pops up in my computer under the hard drives or removable hardware;

    We can feel the hard drive loading and the fan spinning what if any could be the reason the drive isn’t registering 100%

    thanks in advance

  5. 74
    cj2600 Says:

    Alberto,

    Now I am trying to repair the boot partition with test disk…. any suggestions or help?

    You said all personal data is save. Why do you want to repair the partition? Can you reinstall the operating system from the recovery disc and start over?

  6. 73
    Alberto Says:

    Hola,
    Thank you very much for this web site. It’s been of big help to initially gain access to my “lost” data in my harddrive.

    I just want to collaborate with this web site and all the people strugling to have access to the hard drive once connected to antoher PC. I had the same trouble, the problem was the partition was damaged and then its imposible for the new PC to detect it (you don’t see anithing in MiPC). Well the solutions for all your troubles is this free software:
    Partion find and mount.
    With the free version you’ll be able to detect lost partitions give them an extension (ie E:) and automatically you will see them in MiPc and you can just copy your data you need. There is a pro version but I am sure you don’t need it..

    In my case the boot partition was damaged and I couldn’t fix it with partition find and mount. Anyway I could saved all the DATA in the harddrive.

    Now I am trying to repair the boot partition with test disk…. any suggestions or help????
    Best of luck to all .
    Al.

  7. 72
    PrincePersona Says:

    You could try switching the jumper on your hard drive to slave and connect another hard drive that can boot into an operating system and have it’s jumper set to master (sometimes will have master with slave present) connect them both to one ide cable and turn on your computer. you may need to go into the bios to get your mother board to recognize the drives. most mother boards will automaticly have detected your hardrive settings. go into cmos in the bios and have it do an auto search for your hardrives if it does not already recognize them. If it comes back as nothing is ther you will need to take the harddrive out and look at it to find the hard drive properties that the cmos will ask for if you do a manual setting.

    you should be able to turn on your computer and load into your operating system and transfer those precious files from your old hard drive (currently set as slave) to the new one (currently set as master)

    let me know if this helps.

    If not I’ll find something else for you to try.

  8. 71
    Lex Says:

    I have a hard drive (IDE) which I used for my Windows XP desk top as a storage drive on my DELL. One day it did not boot up and no method I tried couln’t get it to boot and I would really like to access it for the last time so I can retrieved the precious photos and important files I stored in the drive. Can this USB enclosure method be use to extract my files out of that unbootable Maxtor drive?

  9. 70
    Steve Says:

    Often problems with this and other USB devices not being seen can be fixed by reinstalling windows, before you do that backup everythig and try the system restore utility first, its under accessories in the startmenu.

    Reinstalling is not as daunting as most people thing, i do it for a living……..

  10. 69
    Steve Says:

    Number 69, Possible because of a FAT setting or older computer/windows if they are old, its unlikley u can use the entire hdd expecially if it works fine on some other pc,

    Number 68 Try this
    go to start then run, type in CMD
    in CMD type
    set devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices=1 Then press enter then type
    start devmgmt_msc then pres enter again, device manager will open, go to view then show hidden devices, uninstall all greyed/ghosted hard drives and USB drives, then reboot with the drive connected, if windows fails to load do it wil it disconnected, then conect once loaded, if it still freeses, i may suggest the easiest soloution being a reinstall of windows

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