How to Retrieve Data from an Old Hard Drive

We all have a hard drive or two lying around, containing data from our previous computers that we would like to check before disposing of the disks. But what is the best way to retrieve data from an old hard drive without having to open up your latest computer and installing it inside?

If the components of your old hard drive are still functioning, you can easily retrieve the data yourself. If there is mechanical damage, however, you will need to send it to the experts.

For now, let us take a look at how to get your data back!

Drive crashes

Usually, drive recovery can be a costly and a time-consuming process. Depending on the nature of the file inside the drive and your determination to retrieve them, you can proceed accordingly!

Drive crashes occur in two ways: logical failure and mechanical failure.

Logical failure means your drive’s components are undamaged. But the drive is not able to navigate or find its data due to either a corrupt file system or a mistake in formatting. That means that unless the data was overwritten, your data still exists on that disk.

When your hard drive is prevented from working because it has broken parts, it is known to be suffering from mechanical failure.

Broken drives tend to make a clicking sound when you try to access them. Your data is there, but you will need professional help to retrieve that information!

What different ways are there to retrieve data from old hard drives?

On the motherboard, there are SATA headers. One way is to plug in the old SATA drives there. You can power it from the PSU. It is an effective method, but there are better solutions available.

Another slightly expensive option is a hot swap dock like a USB 3.0 from Anker. But one issue is that docks that support both SATA and IDE connections are not available anymore.

Unless you mainly work with SATA drives, a hot swap dock is not a feasible option for most applications and home users.

Another method is to get a converter/adapter cable. You can connect the HDDs like you are connecting a flash drive or a mobile HDD to your computer.

Traditionally, the adapters were not very reliable. But advancement in Windows and Windows hardware has brought about better functionality at reasonable costs!

You can try the USB 3.0 to IDE/SATA Adapter from Sabrent for the purpose. It is fast, dependable, and conveniently it has a personal Molex transformer to power your drives!

Steps to take for data retrieval

Step 1

The adapter has a side for SATA, 2.5 IDE, and 3.5 IDE. Use the most suitable side of the adapter.

Step 2

In case the hard drive is ancient enough to need the jumper system, ensure that the drive jumpers are set to Master. However, the latest SATA drives rarely use jumpers.

Step 3

Connect the adapter to your computer through a USB port.

Step 4

Get the power after plugging in the Molex adapter.

Step 5

Power the drive by switching on the power.

Once the drive and the computer are powered up, the hard drive should appear on your Windows device as a detachable device like an external drive.

From there you can click on and access all your old files and folders!

Things to Remember

While accessing old folders in your hard drives you might get an error message that says you don’t have permission to access this folder.

This might happen if the folders were created on old Windows systems. Meaning, the access permission is with the old operating system only!

Click on the ‘continue’ option just once and you will be ok.

If that does not solve your problem or you don’t receive this error prompt but instead get a message about an access error, you will need to manually correct the Windows file permissions to retrieve your files.

If you are unable to view the hard drive

There are three reasons why you might not be able to view your drive even when you have connected the data and the power cables properly:

  • Your hard drive is old and you will have to set your jumpers properly.
  • Your Operating System cannot read your drive’s file system.
  • Your hard drive is damaged.

Using the adapter is an easy way to simply connect your old drive. You can check the data, retrieve old files, compare backups, delete the data, or use it—however you want to use the old hard drive.

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