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How To Retrieve Your Files From A Hard Drive You Can't Access

The data on your hard drive is important, but your access to it can be fragile. Your ability to get to your files depends entirely on your computer and all its components working correctly. If for whatever reason you aren't able to access your hard drive from the computer it's installed in, there are multiple ways to try to retrieve these files and get them on a working device with minimal hassle.

If Your Computer Is Dead

If your computer doesn't work in a way that lets you access your hard drive — for example, if it doesn't turn on at all — this is potentially good news for your files if the hard drive isn't the problem. If some other component isn't working correctly, that means that your hard drive is likely in perfect shape. This makes accessing your files much easier, and it's something you can attempt yourself if you feel comfortable working with computers.

One thing you can try is hooking up your hard drive to another computer and pulling the files from it. This can often be done with the purchase of a USB universal drive adapter, which lets you plug in your old hard drive to another device. The easiest way to do this is simply hook up your old hard drive as a secondary drive on a working computer where you can access all its files from one place.

You can also try to use data recovery software if the hard drive you connect doesn't seem to want to work properly. So if your old drive doesn't show up in Windows Explorer or Finder the way it should, this software can often still access the drive anyway.

If Your Hard Drive Is Dead

If the hard drive itself is the problem, this makes things a little more difficult, but still not impossible. A hard drive will typically fail one of two ways. The first is a mechanical problem, in which the physical components of the drive no longer work. The second is a logical problem, in which the drive can no longer read or write data from the drive even though the physical components work fine. If you aren't sure which type your drive is suffering from, you can follow some simple troubleshooting.

In both cases, the data might still be safely intact on the drive; it's just harder to get to. In the case of logical failures, data retrieval software can sometimes be used successfully, though it depends how serious the failure is. With mechanical failures, you'll need to seek the help of a professional data retrieval specialist who can use their own special tools to access the data on the drive.

If Your Hard Drive Has A Virus

If the hard drive mostly works but is suffering from a virus, there are a few ways you can tackle this without losing your data. While reformatting is a good way to remove a virus and save a hard drive, it should be one of your last options.

One way you can try to do this is by using Command Prompt. With your hard drive connected to a working computer, you can use certain commands to repair the drive and recover your data.

Another option is to again try recovery software, though this will still need to be used from a working computer.

Another method still is to connect the drive to a working and virus-free computer that has antivirus software installed, then simply scan the drive with that software to clear away any viruses.

If the virus won't let your computer work correctly and you have no other computer to use, you can try booting into Safe Mode and then using your antivirus software to scan the drive. If you don't have software or it's not working because you can't use your computer normally, try installing antivirus software onto a flash drive, and then running the software from the flash drive.

If none of these options work, you may need to consult a professional, like those at Colorado Computers. The good news is that if the virus is the only issue, retrieving your data will often be a faster and less expensive process.