How to recover data from failed laptop or notebook

Let’s say your laptop failed to start but you have some important files on the hard drive you would like to access. Is it possible to recover data from a failed laptop or notebook computer? Yes, it is and the process is relatively simple.

First of all, I assume that the hard drive in your failed laptop is not damaged.The laptop fails to start but the hard drive is in a good working condition.

In order to recover data you will have to access and remove the hard drive. Fortunately in most laptops the hard drive can be easily accessed through a hatch on the bottom. If the hard drive has mounting brackets installed (like in my example), it might be necessary to remove those brackets.

How to recover data from a laptop IDE hard drive.

Let’s start with an IDE hard drive also known as PATA hard drive.
On the picture below you see a regular IDE hard drive. It has two rows of pins on the front side.

The easiest way to access and recover data from an IDE hard drive would be using an external USB enclosure. Make sure to choose a USB enclusure for 2.5″ IDE hard drives.

You attach your hard drive to a USB/IDE converter and then connect it to another working computer (laptop or desktop) via USB cable.

Advantages of using external USB enclosure:
1. Easy to assemble and setup even for novice users.
2. Can be connected to a laptop or desktop computer.

Disadvantages of using external USB enclosure:
Slow data transfer rate.
If you computer supports USB 2.0, the data transfer rate will not exceed 480Mbps (I assume the enclosure also supports USB 2.0).
If your computer supports only USB 1.1, the data transfer rate will not exceed 12Mbps and it might take hours to transfer large amount of data.

The second method is for more advanced users.

You can access and remove data much faster if you use a laptop to IDE hard drive adapter (on the picture below mentioned as IDE connector).

One side of the adapter connects to the laptop hard drive. The second connects to the available IDE cable inside your PC computer.

Advantages of using Laptop to IDE hard drive adapter:
Fast data transfer rate. If you have a Ultra ATA/100 (UDMA/100) laptop hard drive, the data transfer rate will be 100MBs.

Disadvantages of using Laptop to IDE hard drive adapter:
1. Not for novice users. Requires PC disassembly and hardware configuration.
2. Can be connected only to PC computes.

On the picture below you can see how the adapter is connected to a PC computer.

How to recover data from a laptop SATA hard drive.

A SATA hard drive has a different interface. It has a data connector and power connector.

A laptop SATA hard drive also can be connected to an external USB enclosure. Make sure to choose a USB enclusure for 2.5″ SATA hard drives.
If you are using an external USB enclusure, the data transfer rate will be limited to the speed of the USB port (480Mbps or 12Mbps) even though SATA hard drives has transfer rate 150MBps.

For a faster data recovery I would suggest connecting your SATA hard drive directly to the SATA ports inside a PC computer. Fortunately, you can use same type of cables as you use for regular 3.5″ desktop hard drives.

My next post explains how to recover data from a laptop with crashed OS.

59 comments on “How to recover data from failed laptop or notebook
  1. Recovery Guy says:

    @ Rachel,
    It’s hard to tell if the drive is good or not without testing it.
    It’s possible there is a problem with the laptop but not the drive itself.
    I guess you’ll have to try connecting it to another working computer using a SATA (or IDE) to USB cable.

  2. Rachel says:

    My laptop failed and it turn on with a message of no bootable device detected. Can I get the data with a USB adapter but I don’t know if the hard drive is bad.

  3. Austin says:

    Hello- I need help with a SATA laptop hdd. I pulled off the plastic around the connector. You know how older IDE hdd’s had a removable plastic adapter? I thought that’s what it was. Anyway, I see no way to put it back, although it’s not broken. If you (or anyone) has ANY suggestions, or would like a pic, please email me. Cocoa2424. Gmail. Thanks in advance.

  4. Abhijeet says:

    I have taken out SATA harddisk (the one which was having problem) & inserted new good SATA harddisk. Also OS is installed & laptop is working fine. If I want to recover data from old SATA harddisk, then can I connect it using USB adapter & use Knoppix way to recover data?

  5. rich tor says:

    In the SATA drive image above, What is the other connector called? You have labeled the Data & Power but what is the (4) prong connector?

  6. Been there dun dat says:

    I had plugged my pc to laptap adapter in wrong and damaged the logic board on my laptop hardrive.

    I waited on ebay until a hard drive with EXACTLY the same numbers and manufacturing date (within a month) as mine became available and (bid through the roof) bought it.
    I transferred the new logic board to the damaged drive and it worked, I could read my drive again.
    The warning is to use this as a recovery method only, then retire the drive as it may become undependable.
    To fix, get a new drive same size and CLONE it, and use the clone only. Copying is not the same as cloning.

  7. liz says:

    HI I believe my hardrive is corrupted but I am a novice to this , so I am not sure, all I know is I can not get past the system repair (which fails everytime) and gives me a blue screen with error code 0x00000f4. I dont have the OS cd , which I plan on order to reinstall everything but I am scared to lose all my babys pictures. is this what I should do to transfer them to my PC? will it transfer over a virus and corrupt the pc ? Any help is greatly appreciated.

  8. hashim says:

    i have a laptop hdd how to make it into a portable hardrive without buying anything

  9. Recovery Guy says:

    @ preeti,

    hi i have deleted some pictures n vedios which was very important is dere any way to recover those vedios n pictures frm dell laptop with windows seven …plz sugggest

    Normally I use GetDataBack software to recover deleted files. This software has “deleted files scan”.
    You have to use the right version, there are two different versions for NTFS and FAT file systems.

  10. preeti says:

    hi i have deleted some pictures n vedios which was very important is dere any way to recover those vedios n pictures frm dell laptop with windows seven …plz sugggest

  11. Pete says:

    Need help! I have a Seagate Momentus SATA 7200 RPM 320GB laptop hard disk drive that failed on me about a year ago. I have been trying awhile now to recover some videos of my kid’s sporting events over the years which reside on this failed hard drive. I am using a SATA / IDE to USB 2.0 Adapater, but have been unable to see the contents of the failed drive on my good laptop when I connect the failed drive to it through the appropriate USB port. I can hear the disk drive running when I turn on the SATA / IDE adapter, however, my laptop it is connected to doesn’t see it. Any suggesstions? I am a little computer savvy, but this issue is really got me dumbfounded. Any help is appreciated. Thanks

  12. Raj K says:

    Thanks, I have Toshiba Satellite A305-S6843, using last 4 years and had no issues till recently. Laptop started shutting down in middle. Your website irisvista.com/tech/ helped me disassemble and clean the heat sink and fan assembly. The pictures and directions helped me lot and the laptop running without any heat related problems and I recommend using these instruction and pictures. Though, there are one or two pictures or different to my model on heat sink, overall very help full. Thanks for your website.

  13. Jeff S says:

    Not sure if this is still open, but with my Toshiba Tecra A8, it crashed, I reinstalled XP and can now get into safe mode. It tells me the Windows is not registered, and when I click on yes to register it stalls the puter. If I click no, it logs me off. In safe mode I have retrieved everything except “My Safe” contents. It is a secure area evidently not accessable in safe mode. For safety/security! I am at a loss. It accepts my fingerprint to get into the system, but won’t let me register it now or later, so I cannot get into it in regular mode. It is maddening! Any suggestions would be great. If I pull the HD and connect to another computer, will it do any good? Will I be able to get any further? I have some pretty critical data in my safe, hence it’s in the safe. But it won’t let me in. You can email if you like, I will follow whatever suggestions you have. Thanx so much for your time and talents.
    Jeff

  14. T800 says:

    This really helped! (thumbsup)
    A small advice:
    If you are buying case for laptop HDD, see what kind of connector cable it uses, because HDD needs enough power and single USB port provides only up to 0.5 A max! (could save you some headache)
    I bought enclosure with a small short cable (~5 inches) and it works fine, but if I use longer cable to extend the reach, the cable eats up power and HDD won’t work. The solution for longer cable would be so-called Y-cable, which plugs into 2 ports and draws power from both ports (0.5+0.5 A = 1 A as it says on HDD), but I guess it’s not that common to find in store. Sometimes the cable is already made like that, be sure to check web pics of the case model you gonna buy).
    I successfully rescued data from dead laptop and had no problems accessing data on it (NTFS, has admin password, but no encryption/protection on My Documents folder, you mileage may vary).

  15. Recovery Guy says:

    Frank,

    I have a SATA hard drive that was in a Dell lap top and the laptop is no more, but I have the hard drive. I am trying to read the drive on another computer with the use of a USB enclosure. It is telling me that I have 0 available and 0 stored. I understand Dell has a security on their drives is there a way to retrieve the information?

    No, usually Dell laptops do not have any security enabled by default.
    What operating system you had installed?

  16. Frank says:

    I have a SATA hard drive that was in a Dell lap top and the laptop is no more, but I have the hard drive. I am trying to read the drive on another computer with the use of a USB enclosure. It is telling me that I have 0 available and 0 stored. I understand Dell has a security on their drives is there a way to retrieve the information? Thanks.

  17. K Lewis says:

    Would these instructions also apply to an Apple laptop?

  18. Recovery Guy says:

    Hank,

    The power connection pins broke off and the data pins are bent is there a way to fix this hard drive or get the data off of it I appreciate any help you can offer

    I really doubt you can fix it at home. I guess you’ll have to use clean room recovery service. Check out DriveSavers.

  19. Hank says:

    The power connection pins broke off and the data pins are bent is there a way to fix this hard drive or get the data off of it I appreciate any help you can offer

    Thank you
    Hank

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