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How to Get Files Off a Hard Drive that Won’t Turn On

How to Get Files Off a Hard Drive that Won't Turn On

Have you ever faced a situation where you urgently need to access files on a hard drive, but the drive simply won’t turn on? It’s a frustrating and worrying scenario, as it could mean potential data loss. However, don’t despair just yet—there are multiple solutions to attempt file retrieval from a non-responsive hard drive. From personal experience, I’ll share various methods that have helped me get data off a hard drive that wouldn’t power up. And if you’re struggling with a related issue where your whole Windows won’t boot and you can’t access your files, the linked detailed guide, ‘How to Recover Data When Windows PC Won’t Boot’, may offer some help.


Common Scenarios:

Unexpected Power Surge 🌩

  • It was just an average day working on my desktop when suddenly, a power surge hit. I didn’t have a surge protector, and while most of my components survived, my external hard drive didn’t turn on afterwards. The fear of data loss made me search for methods to retrieve the files.

Accidental Drops and Knocks 🛠

  • One of the common causes I’ve encountered is physical damage. An accidental drop can jar a hard drive’s components, leaving it non-functional. Although it’s not guaranteed, sometimes data can still be extracted from these impacted hard drives.

Electronic Failure 🔌

  • Hard drives are vulnerable to electronic failures. A short circuit or a failed PCB (Printed Circuit Board) can lead to your hard drive not powering on. My search for solutions taught me that this could be due to a faulty component on the hard drive’s board.


Step-by-Step Guide. How To Get Files Off A Hard Drive That Won’t Turn On:

Method 1: External Enclosure 📦

  • Remove the hard drive from its original system and place it into an external enclosure.
  • Connect the enclosure to another computer and check if the hard drive is recognized.
  • If recognized, transfer files to the working computer or another storage device.

Note: This method only works if the hard drive itself is functional but the original computer or enclosure is not.

Conclusion: An external enclosure can be a quick and simple way to access files on a hard drive that won’t turn on.

Method 2: Hard Drive Docking Station ⚓

  • Use a hard drive docking station which provides an easy plug-and-play interface for a non-responsive hard drive.
  • Insert the problematic hard drive into the docking station and then connect it to another computer.
  • Attempt file access and recovery if the hard drive shows up.

Note: Docking stations are useful for dealing with multiple hard drives or frequent data recovery tasks.

Conclusion: Docking stations are convenient for quick connections without the need for full enclosure installations.

Method 3: Drive Adapter Cable 🔄

  • Connect the hard drive to another computer using a SATA/IDE to USB adapter cable.
  • Once connected, gauge if the computer recognizes the hard drive.
  • If the drive is accessible, proceed to copy necessary files to a secure location.

Note: Ensure you have the correct adapter for your specific hard drive interface.

Conclusion: Adapter cables are a versatile and portable option for connecting an internal hard drive externally.

Method 4: Data Recovery Software 💾

  • Utilize professional data recovery software like Recuva to attempt file recovery.
  • Perform a scan on the drive, if detectable, to recover files.
  • Save recovered files to another secure drive.

Recuva data recovery software

Note: This software can be particularly effective if the drive doesn’t show in ‘My Computer’ but is recognized in ‘Device Manager’.

Conclusion: Data recovery software can be a lifesaver when it comes to retrieving files from a problematic drive.

Method 5: Professional Data Recovery Services 🛠

  • If none of the above methods work, consider using a professional data recovery service.
  • Search for reputable services with positive reviews and a no-recovery, no-fee policy.
  • Send your hard drive to the service and await the results of their recovery attempts.

Note: This option can be costly, so weigh the value of your data against the recovery costs.

Conclusion: For severely damaged hard drives or complex issues, professional services offer the best chance of data recovery.


Precautions and Tips:

Preserve What’s Essential ⚠

  • Avoid using a hard drive that won’t turn on, as powering it up repeatedly can cause further damage.
  • Always have a backup of your critical data—this cannot be emphasized enough.


Understanding Hard Drive Failures

Hard drive failures can manifest in various forms, from mechanical breakdowns to electronic issues. Understanding the symptoms and types of failures can provide insights into why your hard drive won’t turn on.

Common failure signs include clicking sounds, which can indicate mechanical issues, or a complete lack of power-up, often pointing to electronic problems. In some situations, a burnt smell from the hard drive can signal a PCB malfunction. It’s essential to diagnose these failures correctly, as each requires a different recovery approach.

There are high-authority resources that delve deeper into the technicalities of hard drive failures. For example, the Ontrack blog offers information on common causes of hard drive failures, while How-To Geek provides a user-friendly explanation of why hard drives fail.


Extracting files from a hard drive that won’t turn on can be challenging, but it’s not always a lost cause. While DIY methods exist, remember that further damage can occur without the proper precautions or experience. If valuable data is at stake, seeking professional help might be the safest option. Regular backups and understanding the signs of a failing hard drive can prevent future stress. Ultimately, ensuring data security is about planning and having the right resources at hand. Protect your data, and you protect your peace of mind.


Before attempting data recovery, ensure the hard drive is indeed not powering on by connecting it to a different computer and using a different cable. Check for any visible damage or an unusual smells that could indicate electrical issues.

Yes, in some cases you can use a USB to SATA/IDE adapter or a hard drive enclosure to connect the hard drive to another computer as an external drive and transfer the files.

If the hard drive isn't recognized by another computer, software recovery tools won't help. Mechanical failures often require professional data recovery services.

DIY recovery attempts can lead to further data loss or damage. If the data is critical, it is safer to consult a professional data recovery service. Visit experts like DriveSavers for reliable services.

Use a professional service if the hard drive has physical damage, makes unusual noises, or contains important data that can't be affordably lost. Another indication is if the drive is not recognized by another computer.

Home remedies, like the freezer trick, are not recommended as they can cause more damage. It's best to consult professionals if the hard drive is not responding.

You may need a USB to SATA/IDE adapter or enclosure, screwdrivers to open the computer case or external enclosure, and data recovery software if the drive is still recognized.

Connect the hard drive to another computer. If it's recognized but with file access issues, it's likely software-related. Complete failure to power up often suggests hardware problems.

Common signs include clicking or grinding noises, burn marks, and PCB damage, as well as the computer not recognizing the hard drive or it not spinning up.

You can find data recovery software at reputable providers; for instance,Disk Drill offers a variety of tools for different recovery scenarios.