How to Locate Data on an Old Hard Drive

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TSAustinM admin
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edited June 2021 in Software

Most people have to upgrade their computers or have had a computer stop working due to hardware failure. This article explains how to locate your pictures, documents, and other files off an old hard drive.

  1. Get the hard drive out of the old computer. This step is simple for a desktop, though the difficulty can vary for laptops. If working with a laptop, you will need to seek further instructions for hard drive removal. 

    Hard Drive enclosure

  2. Get a hard drive enclosure or a USB-to-SATA adapter. The adapter offers the advantages of being faster to connect and fitting any size hard drive. The enclosure is useful if using the old hard drive as a longer term external drive.

    USB-to-SATA adapter

  3. Connect the hard drive to the adapter or enclosure by plugging in the power and data ports. Plug in the USB cable that comes with the enclosure or SATA-to-USB adapter into your computer USB port.

    Hard Drive power and data port
    Computer USB port

  4. On your computer, open file explorer by pressing the Windows key and the letter E at the same time.

    Keyboard Windows key and E key

  5. Select the old hard drive from the left column in File Explorer. It will most commonly be labeled D or higher. In this example, the old hard drive is labeled as Windows (D:).

    File Explorer Left column

  6. Most data that you need to recover will be in the Users folder.

  7. There is a folder for each profile that existed on the old computer. Select the user folder matching your username.

    File Explorer User folder list

  8. If you encounter a prompt stating you do not have permission to access this folder, select Continue to assign yourself permission. This may take a while to complete.

    File permission

  9. You can now access the various library files containing all of your documents, pictures, etc.

    File Explorer Library files

  10. Copy the files to your new computer by copying and pasting to the new computer hard drive.
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