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How to Recover Data from a Dead Laptop

Updated on June 3, 2012

Everyone knows that backing up data is important. I would like to say that it was a rule I always followed, but the truth is I'm quite lazy about backing up data. I've been lucky enough to never have any major problems with either of my computers, and naive enough to think the unthinkable would ever happen to me.

Before I go any further I'd like to say I'm not a computer expert. I do enjoy tinkering around with them. I've built two desktops, and enjoy figuring out problems. In my circle of friends and family I've been called on more than a few times to fix minor problems and install hardware upgrades.

I've explained to several people the importance of backing up data, to be prepared for the worst. Too bad I didn't take my own advice!

I have an laptop, a few years old, that recently just died with no warning. I won't lie. I was completely freaking out.

Being 60K words into my second novel I scrambled for my trusty usb drive. I had been backing up my writing, sporadically. I couldn't remember when I had last backed up that data. Was it a week ago, a month? Turns out I hadn't bothered to save the file for a few weeks. I'd lost everything except the first few chapters.

I'm not ashamed to say I shed a tear or two.

I completely disassembled it, checked all the connections, tested the voltage. In the end I can only conclude the motherboard is shot. If you've ever looked into a replacement motherboard for a laptop, they are quite costly. The general advice for an older model is to just buy a new laptop.

The good news is since the hard drive was unaffected I was able to recover the data easily. I didn't want to spend a lot of money, so I started searching for ways to do it myself. I was surprised to find the fix was very cheap and simple to do.

The only thing you need is a hard drive enclosure, and there are many available for less than five dollars. Before making a purchase check your specific laptop specs. Most newer laptops use SATA drives, but yours may be IDE.

Removing the hard drive from most laptops is easy, and only requires a screw driver. Since there are so many minor differences between laptop models, it's probably a good idea to do a search for the type of laptop you own.

Once you remove the hard drive and put it in the new external case, getting to your data is easy. Just connect it to another computer via a USB point, and voila. Of course this fix is only going to work if your hard drive is still functioning. If the HD is the problem, and not some other laptop component, there are companies you can send the damaged part to. They will attempt to rebuild the hard drive, but it's a costly process and doesn't always work.

Beyond data recovery - if you have an old laptop you are planning on tossing, why not pull the hard drive and use it for extra storage? Remember to format your drive before before using it for this purpose.


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    • ASchwartz profile image

      ASchwartz 5 years ago from Kentucky

      Thanks for commenting ChristyWrites. Hopefully you won't need to use the data recovery advice any time soon!

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      What an interesting and useful hub

    • ASchwartz profile image

      ASchwartz 5 years ago from Kentucky

      I hope it works for her ThriftyBooomer. Thanks for reading.

    • ThriftyBoomer profile image

      ThriftyBoomer 5 years ago

      I'm sending the link to this hub to my daughter. Her laptop died last summer and she thought she lost everything. Thank you.

    • ASchwartz profile image

      ASchwartz 5 years ago from Kentucky

      Thanks for reading Om Paramapoonya. Glad you found it useful.

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 5 years ago

      I wish I had known this a couple year ago when my old laptop died! Thanks for sharing this. Rated up and useful :)