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. 88
    cj2600 Says:

    Barbara Collier,

    I have an HP Paviliondv6000 laptop that the screen got broke on. I purchased a desk monitor that works great. Now I purchased an external hard drive and was wondering if I can use it to transfer my operating system onto. I have no memory left in the laptop and no money to buy more or another computer. Can you help me?

    Why would you want to transfer the operating system?
    If your laptop hard drive is full, just transfer all personal files (images, music, video, documents, etc…) to the external hard drive and delete them from the laptop after that. This will free up some space on the laptop hard drive.

  2. 87
    cj2600 Says:

    sontara,

    Then I bought a FreeAgent External Hard Drive (500 GB) the guy at at store said I could use the external drive as my main hard drive……But I don’t know how to do this.

    I’m not sure what you are trying to achieve. What do you mean by the main hard drive?
    If your laptop hard drive is full, you can move some data to the external hard drive and free up some space.

  3. 86
    sontara Says:

    I have a HP Paviliondv6000 Laptop and the screen broke. I set it up as a desktop by adding a free standing monitor and a keyboard. Then I bought a FreeAgent External Hard Drive (500 GB) the guy at at store said I could use the external drive as my main hard drive……But I don’t know how to do this. Can anybody out there help me. I don’t have anymore money to buy another computer. I live on a fixed income, I’m old and my computer is such a blessing for me. Oh, the memory on my Laptop is full and I can’t open internet windows or emails very fast.
    I am also on dial-up because I live in the mountains. Thank you

  4. 85
    Barbara Collier Says:

    I have an HP Paviliondv6000 laptop that the screen got broke on. I purchased a desk monitor that works great. Now I purchased an external hard drive and was wondering if I can use it to transfer my operating system onto. I have no memory left in the laptop and no money to buy more or another computer. Can you help me? Thank you.

  5. 84
    EroticaXP Says:

    You only need enclosures for notebook ATA HDDs. The notebook ATA does not match pin configuration with PC ATA. SATA HDD can be swapped with no other addition. Those are both ways compatible no matter what.

  6. 83
    cj2600 Says:

    Anna,

    dont know if anyone can help. I bought an external enclosure and used it with the harddrive from my laptop where the screen was broken. I then connected it to my new laptop and it works. But I cant find my pictures or music in the harddrive, just the programs, but they cant open. Are there any ideas on how i can get access to my pictures on the external harddrive?

    What was the operating system installed on the hard drive? XP or Vista?

    Path for XP:
    Documents and Settings >> User (your profile name) >> My Documents >> My Pictures

    Path for Vista:
    Users >> User name (your profile name) >> Pictures

    These are default paths for XP and Vista.

  7. 82
    Anna Says:

    Hi there. dont know if anyone can help. I bought an external enclosure and used it with the harddrive from my laptop where the screen was broken. I then connected it to my new laptop and it works. But I cant find my pictures or music in the harddrive, just the programs, but they cant open. Are there any ideas on how i can get access to my pictures on the external harddrive?
    Thanks for a good site.

  8. 81
    cj2600 Says:

    Pat,

    I have an IBM thinkpad 600. The computer works, but does not have the OS I want on it. It currently has installed on it Ubuntu 5.10 and I would like to put Win 98 on it. I have tried burning boot disks, but cannot seem to find one that works.

    I think this article from Microsoft will help you. The article explains how to install Windows 98 on a computer without OS.

  9. 80
    Pat Says:

    Okay, I don’t know a whole bunch of technical terms or anything, but I hope you can help me.

    I have an IBM thinkpad 600. The computer works, but does not have the OS I want on it. It currently has installed on it Ubuntu 5.10 and I would like to put Win 98 on it. I have tried burning boot disks, but cannot seem to find one that works.

    A few days ago, I got the idea of plugging in my HD to my PC and putting the needed files on it from there. I borrowed a converter (laptop AND desktop Hard Drives to USB) from a friend, and tried to use it. My PC recognizes it right away, and installed the drivers needed, but I cannot find it anywhere. I have checked My Computer, but still don’t know where it is.

    Can u help?

  10. 79
    James Says:

    I have an HP laptop that has stopped working. The screen is blank but the LED lights are on. 2 times after the laptop has been plugged in for weeks it came on for a half day or so then off again. also when it was working it would not work at all without the power cord. So I was thinking the battery or power is the problem…suggestions please

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