How to recover data from a failed external hard drive

Let’s say your external hard drive failed to start. When you connect your hard drive to a computer nothing happens even though it used to work just fine a while ago. The hard drive appears to be dead or it shows some signs of life but will not appear in My Computer. Is your data gone? Can you recover files? Yes, it’s possible.
There is a good chance that your hard drive is still in a good working condition and your data is safe. It’s likely that the failure is related to the circuit board inside the external enclosure or the power supply.

An external hard drive is nothing more than a regular 2.5″ (laptop) or 3.5″ (desktop) hard drive wrapped up in an external enclosure.
You’ll have to find a way to crack the enclosure case wide open. I cannot provide instructions for any single case out there but it should not be very difficult. Use your brain and a small flat head screwdriver.

After the enclosure case is open, you’ll find the hard drive connected to the circuit board. The hard drive will be secured to one half of the enclosure with a few screws. Remove those screws.

Now you can disconnect the hard drive from the circuit board and remove it from the enclosure. In my case it’s a 3.5″ 320GB SATA hard drive.

Again, there is a very good chance that the failure is related to the enclosure and the hard drive is a good working condition.

After the hard drive is removed, you can connect it to another working computer and see if it pops up in My Computer. Access the hard drive and recover your files.

If you are trying to get access to a portable 2.5″ (laptop) hard drive, here’s how you can coonect it to another laptop or desktop computer.

5 comments on “How to recover data from a failed external hard drive
  1. Garry says:

    Hi Theresa,

    Open up the hard drive like its shown above, once you have it open and have the hard drive out you’ll see that the part that you would normally connect the miniusb or firewire can still be attached to the hard drive using this you can still plug in straight into your computer hope this helps….also the purchase of a 2.5″ hard drive adapter might be required if its a case that yours is gone

    Hope this helps

  2. Theresa K. says:

    I plan to try this, but I am no tech geek. How do I connect it to a computer once I remove it from the casing? In my case, I have a portable hard drive which appears to work but the computer won’t recognize it.

  3. Corey Chapman says:

    data recovery is a very costly option, always make a regular backups.;”,

  4. Recovery Guy says:

    Jason,

    Yesteday I took it apart as you did and connected to my main computer as a slave drive. To my surprize the hard drive started and I was able to access it!

    I have had great success doing that. In many cases the external enclosure failure is not related to the hard drive failure (like in your case). Removing the hard drive from the enclosure and connecting it as a slave will give you an access to your files.

  5. Jason says:

    Thanks!
    I has a similar hard drive and one day it just stopped working. The light was comming on but I didn’t feel any movement. I thought my pictures and music is gone.
    Yesteday I took it apart as you did and connected to my main computer as a slave drive. To my surprize the hard drive started and I was able to access it!
    I got my family pictures back!

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