Rescue Files on Dead PC’s

rescue files on dead PC

Did you ever wish that you can rescue files on dead PC’s? In the past few months, I’ve had to rescue  or recover files in two different cases. One of them was from a problem hard drive. The other was from a dead PC. The key to this was using hard drive adapters.

Rescue Files on Dead PC’s or Hard Drives.

I should note that I got lucky and that the problems I encountered were easily solved. I should warn you that this solution may not work for everyone because each problem case is unique.

Case one: Computer freezes up.

Six months ago, my brother reinstalled Windows 7 on is seven-year-old Dell PC. He did that because he wanted to get rid of any bloatware or old software that was installed. So rather than uninstalling each application one by one, he decided that a reinstall of the operating system would be faster.

hard drive -

So he backed up any files he didn’t want to lose and successfully reinstalled Windows 7. No problems with the procedure at all. That is until three months later. For some reason, just minutes after the PC would boot up; the PC would freeze. It didn’t matter what we tried, the issue would occur even when booting up in safe mode.

After running a diagnostic tool (it boots and runs off a USB stick) we got an error code on the hard drive. After a quick search on Google and checking the hardware forms, the consensus was that the hard drive was damaged and the problem is only going to get worse. (I wish I took note of what tool we used and the error code. Unfortunately, I do not remember what they were. Sorry about that.)

Well, purchasing a new hard drive and reinstalling was the solution to that, if not tedious. However, what about the three months of files that were not backed up? Some of those files are important to him.

The solution: A USB Docking Station.

USB docking station
Just don’t put in pop tarts!

Fortunately for him, I purchased a USB docking station a few years back. It was was very simple to use. All you have to do is plug in the old hard drive like you put bread in a toaster and you can use it like an external hard drive. It’s a great device. It works with 2.5″ hard drives that are commonly used in laptops and with 3.5″ drives that are used in most desktop PCs. So in the end, we were able to recover all but one of the files he needed to the new drive.

I should note that the current docking station I have is not in production anymore. It can only handle hard drives up to 1 TB. The one on the right is a more recent model and can handle much larger hard drives. It’s also much cheaper. I bought mine for $50. This one is only $23.

Case two: Dead PC.

Top - SATA drive, Bottom - IDE Drive
Top – SATA drive, Bottom – IDE Drive

My mother’s PC finally died. It was a PC made in 2003 and was still running Windows XP. We would turn it on and see the old Energy Star award logo pop up. However, on top of the logo, we’d also see that the screen was full of colons (:) in the entire screen. You wouldn’t even hear the fans turning.

Anyhow, we upgraded her old computer with a laptop that was only a couple of years old and plugged in all the old PC peripherals, mouse, keyboard, printer, monitor, etc,… Now there was the matter of transferring her old files. Whip out the hard drive toaster, right? Nope. it turns out that since the PC was over ten years old, it was using an older type of hard drive. So it wasn’t compatible with the docking station.

Newer PCs use hard drives that have the newer SATA interface, old ones like my mother’s have used IDE. You can see the difference in the image above. On top is the old SATA drive from my brother’s PC. The one below is the old IDE drive.

The solution: An IDE Hard Drive Enclosure.

3.5" Hard drive enclosure.Fortunately for my mother, I purchased an old enclosure case for 3.5″ IDE hard drives several years back. Again, like the toaster device, it allows you to use a hard drive as an external hard drive. It’s not complicated to use. All you have to do is plug in the wires from the enclosure to the hard drive sockets. After that, just add power from the wall and connect it by USB to the new computer.

Using this method, I was able to recover all her files and transfer it to the new PC. Again, the model shown here is a more recent model than the one I have. Prices have also come down since I bought mine. I got mine for about $30, this ones is around $16.

So there you go. How I managed to save the day for my family. Yay! Although I already have a hard drive docking station and an enclosure for the old type IDE hard drives; I was considering purchasing an adapter that can handle both types of hard drives.

An adapter that can handle both types of hard drives.Actually, according to the sales page, it also handles an even older type of IDE drive as well. I do have to ask myself; Will I still need to connect old IDE hard drives? I’m sure that all of the “working” computers in my house use SATA type hard drives. However, I do have this nagging voice in my head saying, “Just in case…”

Questions? Comments? Alternate or better solutions than mine? Please feel free to post them in the comments section below.

Items mentioned in this post

HD docking station.

( Inateck USB 3.0 Hard Drives Docking Station for 2.5 Inch and 3.5 Inch HDD SSD SATA (SATA I / II / III), Support 4TB, Optimized For SSD.

( Inateck USB 3.0 to SATA External Hard Drives Docking Station for 2.5 Inch & 3.5 Inch HDD SSD SATA (SATA I / II / III) Support Up to 4TB, Including USB 3.0 Cable, Optimized For SSD

3.5" IDE enclosure.


( Everydaysource® Black 3.5″ IDE HDD Enclosure


Combo Adapter.

( StarTech USB 2.0 to SATA IDE Adapter (USB2SATAIDE)

 ( USB 2.0 to SATA/IDE Combo Adapter for 2.5/3.5 Inches SSD/HDD