How to Save (Most Likely Anyway) that Old Hard Drive
Have some old computers hanging around that you don’t recycle because you still have information on the hard drive that you want?
Here are a few ideas that I hope will be helpful to you.
If your computer is a much older version and has a pre-SATA IDE hard drive, you will want to get a hard drive enclosure for an IDE hard drive. IDE hard drives came in two sizes, 3.5 inches and 2.5 inches. Typically the larger size was found in desktops and the smaller size was found in laptops. If you have a newer computer you will want to get a SATA enclosure also available in either 3.5 or 2.5 inches.
How can I know if my drive is an IDE or SATA hard drive?
IDE has a long double row of pins that kind of look like the pins stuck in grandma’s pin cushion. Usually that is followed by by another set of double pins, and then a single row four pin connector.
A SATA hard drive has a different type of pin, and they are a single row. These have two sections that are much shorter plus the the power connector.
Be certain to ground yourself before pulling these out of your old computer. It is best to have a grounding strap, but if you don’t, plant both feet on the floor and touch the case on a bare metal spot. To keep yourself grounded, hold one hand on the case and the other on your trusty screwdriver. Sometimes I just lean a bit on the case leaving both hands free. It has worked for me anyway!
Then you will need the IDE or SATA hard drive enclosure that connects to USB to make it an external drive. You can still find a few that will do both, but in both cases, you need the size to match- either 2.5 or 3.5 inches.
Once you have put your drive into its enclosure you are almost ready to go.
There are a few ways to get your data off. Boot your Windows computer completely and then insert the USB drive.
A much better idea however, is to use a Linux live distribution which can be downloaded and set up on USB or CD/DVD depending on your computer. Your computer needs to boot from this.
Why a Linux live distro? Mainly because if there is a problem with the drive, which is often the case with old drives, it is much more likely to see the file system and read it. I have actually seen Linux read a bad drive many times when Windows came to a screeching halt and crashed the good computer when it could not read the external drive.
Move the files onto a backup drive, and there you have it. Sadly, if you don’t have the program you made the file with and you can’t find it online, you may not be able to read it.
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