How to get access to the data on a failed boot disk

The following information deals with a desktop computer when the hard drive is not physically damaged.

Now all that is required is to get a known-good Windows installation with the drive in question connected. You can get the installation by either using another computer or doing parallel installation of Windows OS on another drive of your PC.

Using another computer

If you have a spare computer with a matching hard drive interface, which is working fine, connect the hard drive containing unbootable Windows installation to this spare computer. Then, perform data recovery using Windows of that spare computer.

If the spare computer does not have the appropriate port to connect the hard drive, consider using an USB hard drive box of appropriate type. However, the direct connection to the motherboard is better than the USB box.

Connecting the hard drive to another computer

Moving the hard drive between computers typically involves two steps.

  1. Disconnect the drive from the old location and remove it from the computer case.
    Almost with no exceptions, any computer system can be disassembled with just a "+" type screwdriver. Do not forget to unplug the power cord from the wall socket to make sure the power is actually turned off when you open the computer case.
  2. Then, connect the drive at its new location. For temporary repair purposes you do not even need to install the drive properly with all the screws - just connect the cables and start recovery. However, be careful that the drive electronic circuit board does not contact any metallic objects or surfaces.

If the drive has a Parallel ATA (IDE) connection, make sure the Master/Slave jumpers are set correctly before you power up the new configuration.

Parallel installation

If you do not have a spare computer, but have a spare hard drive, connect this spare hard drive to your PC, install Windows on it, and run recovery using this second Windows installation. We recommend that you physically disconnect the drive containing the lost data before you start installing Windows on the spare hard drive. This eliminates the risk of installing onto the wrong drive.

Be careful if you work with a RAID array. Actually, consider doing a parallel installation described above to avoid moving the array between the computers. If you really need to move the array between the computers, always move all the disks and the controller at once.

Once the failed boot drive is accessible, refer to how to recover data in case of a boot failure for further guidance.

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