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Old 06-10-13, 19:30   #1
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Computers How to Recover Files From a Dead Computer

Uh-oh, your computer isnít booting anymore. Maybe itís a problem with Windows, or maybe the computerís hardware is fried. If you have important files trapped inside your malfunctioning computer, this guide will help you recover them.
Thereís no guarantee your data is recoverable. If your computer isnít working because the hard drive died, there may be no recovering the files ó not without some sort of expensive professional data recovery service, at least.

Boot From a Linux Live CD (or Windows Installation Disc)

If your computerís hardware has actually died on you and thatís the reason itís not booting, this method wonít work. However, the computer may not actually be dead ó its Windows installation may just be damaged. If this is the case, you can recover your files by booting from a Linux live CD or even a Windows installer disc.
Just insert the Linux live CD or Windows installer disc into the computer and start it up. If it boots from the disc and takes you to a Linux desktop or a Windows installation environment, you know that the computerís hardware isnít completely broken. If youíre just interested in recovering the files, you can connect a USB stick or external hard drive and copy the files to the removable media device. Your files will then be saved from your dying computer.

This is simple to do with a Linux live CD, as youíll be given a full Linux desktop that you can use for copying files. If you have a Windows installation disc, you can use a trick to pull up a file management window and copy files off the computerís hard drive.

This method may even work if your computerís hard drive is dying. If youíre lucky, the computer may not be able to boot Windows but you may be able to recover some important files off of the drive from the Linux live CD or Windows installation environment.

Pull the Hard Drive and Put it In Another Computer

If your computer wonít boot a Linux live CD or Windows installer disc, its hardware components may have died on you. Thereís some good news if this is the case ó while the computerís motherboard, CPU, memory, video card, power supply, or any number of other components could be damaged, the computerís hard drive may still be working properly. If this is the case, you can open up the computer, pull the hard drive, connect it to another computer and get the files off of your hard drive using the other computer.

First, a warning: This can void your warranty, particularly if youíre doing this on a laptop that isnít designed to be opened. But if you have a desktop that you can easily open and work on, or you have an old laptop thatís out of warranty and didnít have much life left in it, you may want to go ahead with this process anyway.

The basic process is simple, but youíll ideally need to be comfortable working with the insides of a computer. First, ensure the main power switch at the back of the computerís case is shut off ó or better yet, just unplug the computer from the power outlet. Next, open the computerís case and locate the hard drive. Disconnect its cables, unscrew it, and pull it out of the case. For more in-depth information, consult our guide to installing a new hard drive ó youíre basically going through the process in reverse.


Youíll then need to connect the hard drive to another computer. You can do this by inserting the hard drive into the other computer or using an external drive bay. If you have laptop hard drive and need to connect it to a desktop PC, you can get drive bays designed for laptop hard drives that will allow you to safely connect the laptopís hard drive to another desktop. Power on the other PC, booting its standard operating system from its main hard drive, and copy the files from your old computerís hard drive.

This process is fairly simple on desktops with cases you can open, but itís much harder on laptops ó especially closed laptops that arenít designed to be opened at all. If youíre not comfortable doing this with your computer or you have a closed laptop that youíre not comfortable opening, you may want to contact a computer repair shop or a service desk at a big box store to help you with this process. They can pull the hard drive for you and hopefully recover the files. Assuming your files are valuable and youíre willing to pay, this is always an option.
To avoid scares like this one, be sure to always have backup copies of your important files. If a computerís hard drive dies, you should hopefully be able to shrug it off. Sure, youíll have to go through the trouble of setting up a computer again, but your critical data files should be in more than one place so theyíre preserved when a computer gives up the ghost.
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