One of the most dreadful feelings that you can have is having a pc computer or laptop die that hadn’t been backed up recently; especially if you have valuable pictures, music, videos, documents or other files on it.
In this Tech Tip we’ll take a look at how to recover your valuable pictures from a dead computer.
Where to startComputers are complex machines and when they work right, they are fun to use – but when something goes drastically wrong, it can feel as if your world crashed down around you. If your hard drive is still in working order, there is a very good chance that you’ll be able to recover your pictures, music, videos and valuable documents (and other data) simply with another computer; a specialized cable, a screwdriver; and a little time.
Where to lookOK, so the drive is now plugged into your computer and seen as an external drive, now what? You have several options. One option is to simply look for the files on the drive from the dead computer that you plugged into the USB port and copy them onto the working computer. This is my preferred method personally. I like to “brute force” my way through the drive with Windows Explorer (or a similar file browsing tool) and manually copy/paste the data from one computer to the other. Another option is to follow a Windows dialog box (that usually pops up when you plug in an external drive) and have it help you copy your data from one computer to the other. If you are manually choosing to “brute force it” personal data is usually stored by default in the computers operating systems “home directory” for users.
Common Locationsfor home directories (where <root> takes the place of the drive letter):
- Microsoft Windows 95-Me <root>\My Documents
- Microsoft Windows 2000/XP/2003 <root>\Documents and Settings\<username>
- Microsoft Windows Vista / Windows 7 <root>\Users\<username>
Other “What ifs”What if the files on the drives are erased? If they are, you can use a free recovery program such as Piriform’s Recuva to look for and (hopefully) restore the files. This simple, easy-to-use tool is terrific for recovering pictures from a camera’s memory card that have accidentally been erased as well!
What if the hard drive is the reason that the computer died (actual hardware failure)? If the hard drive is the part that caused the computer failure, then you may be out of luck. Yes, there are specialty recovery services that will pull apart the drives data platters and attempt to recover data (and they are usually successful - such services were used, for example, to recover data from the hard drives that were used on computers from the space shuttle Columbia after it broke apart in 2003) but such services are usually very expensive.