How can I recover the contents of a long-quiet hard drive?
February 1, 2010 6:03 AM   Subscribe

What's the easiest way to recover data from a hard drive in a long-dead computer? I only have immediate access to a laptop; so I guess what I'm asking is if there's any easier method than bothering a friend to let me install it in their box.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot to Technology (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You need one of these. Remove the hard drive, install it in the external hard drive enclosure, then plug it into a computer via USB or firewire. You should be able to access it like any other USB storage medium.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:09 AM on February 1, 2010

PS: Make sure the hard drive is compatible. If it's a IDE hard drive (as opposed to SATA), you'll need a different one.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:11 AM on February 1, 2010

Buy an external hard drive enclosure that accepts both SATA and PATA varieties and follow the directions. You'll be removing the disk and then attaching it to a gizmo that allows you to connect it to any computer (Mac or PC) via a USB cable, then encasing it in a hard shell; you'll need a small Phillips screwdriver but no other tools. If you had a password on the computer, you may need to grab some free software off the internet to remove the "permissions" associated with each file and replace then with a neutral substitute. The hard drive enclosure itself will cost about $12-15 if you buy it through one of the big on-line suppliers. If you don't trust yourself to perform the surgery, any PC repair place can do it.
posted by carmicha at 6:16 AM on February 1, 2010

What Salvor Hardin linked is good. If you are working with a laptop drive that is SATA, it will be great. It won't work if the drive is from a desktop, or an older laptop with an EIDE drive. You can use one of these.
posted by Climber at 6:18 AM on February 1, 2010

Oh yeah, sorry - I assumed the drive was from a laptop. Laptop drives are described as 2.5" drives, and desktop drives are described as 3.5" drives - buy the enclosure accordingly.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:21 AM on February 1, 2010

I own one of these, and I can attest to the quality and reliability of its use. It will do SATA, desktop IDE and laptop IDE.
posted by deezil at 6:30 AM on February 1, 2010

On the super-cheap end of the spectrum, I bought one of these to grab the contents from my wife's laptop drive after the laptop was doused with coffee. It's a cheesy, low-end pile of wires and plugs, but it worked.
posted by jon1270 at 6:48 AM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

Seconding the USB 2.0 to SATA/IDE Cable Adapter For 2.5 3.5 HDD recommended by Climber and jon1270 above. As jon1270 mentioned, it's cheap and gets the job done.

It lets you connect naked HDDs to your system via USB. If you like to tinker with or build computers, you can also use the adapter's 4-pin plug to quickly test case fans without having to power up a PC power supply.

Note: I use it to connect drives to a Windows XP Pro PC. Some people have reported problems getting Vista to recognize the drive but of course if you are using Vista you should already be used to things not working. ;D
posted by stringbean at 6:57 AM on February 1, 2010

Response by poster: Super thanks to all! Amazingly glad there's an easy fix.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 7:17 AM on February 1, 2010

Definitely go with the adapter to USB. They're cheap, easy, work great, and quite reusable.
posted by haveanicesummer at 8:41 AM on February 1, 2010

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