"How do I access my old hard drive on Windows 10 PC? I have tried several ways but can't find a solution to get data off an old hard drive without causing any damage to it."

As time passes, we tend to change our devices for new, more efficient ones. Whether it be desktops, phones, or external devices, you have likely changed them at least once, but some of these devices hold precious memories you may want to preserve and always have by your side. If so, you may be looking for ways to recover data from your old hard drives.

Although it may seem impossible, we are here to teach you how to get data off an old hard drive in different ways.

Table of Content
    1. Use an Adapter to Get Data From an Old Hard Drive
    2. Get Data Off an Old Hard Drive via an External Enclosure
    3. Access an Old Hard Drive Using an External HDD
    4. Connect an Old HDD to a PC With a USB Docking Station
    5. Recover Files From an Old Hard Drive via a PC Connection
    1. Use the Windows System Recovery Options
    2. Create a Bootable USB
    1. What If Access Is Denied?
    2. You Don't Have Permission
    3. Old Hard Drive Is Not Detected

Can You Recover Data from an Old Hard Drive?

Yes, it is possible to recover data from an old hard drive with the help of the right tools, programs, and hardware. However, the recovery methods depend on the hardware and software state of your old hard drive.

Now, let's check the solutions for all scenarios that will surely get your data back unharmed.

How To Get Data off an Old Hard Drive That Still Functions

Below is a list of the most effective ways to extract files from your old hard drive that is functional and not damaged.

Way 1. Use an Adapter to Get Data From an Old Hard Drive

The adapters and ports used to connect your hard drives to your devices have changed over the years. There are over ten ports and connections available, depending on your hard drive model, generation, and numerous other factors. You will need an adapter compatible with both devices to access your data and connect your old hard drive to your new device.

Older hard drives usually need USB HDD adapters to connect to newer devices. The connections can be either SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) or IDE/PATA (Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment).

an example of a hard drive adapter

SATA adapters look like L-shaped connectors with thin cables attached. These adapters utilize four-pin connectors where you can place your old hard drives.

On the other hand, IDE/PATA adapters look similar to the SATA attachments, but these adapters use wider and stronger cables. You should identify which adapter is suitable for your hard drive according to its age, generation, and connection type.

Luckily, you can still find these adapters at low prices and purchase them for this quest. It's an essential piece of equipment since you will need it for most methods presented below. You can also recover your data by simply connecting your old hard drive to your new PC, accessing its content, copying it, and saving it in another location.

To find a suitable adapter, you must know your old drive's generation and connection type and purchase the device accordingly.

Way 2. Get Data Off an Old Hard Drive via an External Enclosure

External enclosures will turn your old hard drives into external disks you can use to recover your data. If you have trouble finding adapters from the method above, you will definitely find external enclosures to reach your recovery goals.

an example of an external enclosure

You can also find universal enclosures, so you won't have to worry about your drive's generation and type. You only need to know the size of your hard drive, which can be either 2.5 or 3.5 inches, and you are ready to go. You can purchase these external enclosures in any hardware store or order them online. For instance, Amazon offers a wide range of these enclosures, and the prices range from $6 to $600.

Once you receive your external enclosure, you will receive detailed instructions on connecting your drive to the enclosure and starting the process. Then, connect the enclosure to your PC and start retrieving your data. The best part is that you can use your hard drive as an external component later on, and store even more data on it, thanks to this method.

Way 3. Access an Old Hard Drive Using an External HDD

Once you find an adapter or an external enclosure, you can use your external HDD to retrieve your data. If you have never done this before, you may need some help retrieving data from your old hard drive successfully. Here's a step-by-step guide on what to do after you turn your old drive into an external HDD:

  1. Power on your PC and insert your external hard drive.
  2. Your desktop should automatically detect your drive. Open the folder with the content from your external hard drive.
    access files in the old hard drive
  3. With this method, you should be able to access all the files from your old drive. You can copy the content (select the files and press CTRL+C) and paste it into a new location (CTRL+V).

If you use this method, you may encounter a message saying you don't have the required permission to access the content. It may occur due to changes in operating systems between your new PC and your old hard drive. In this case, click the Continue button to give your PC the required permissions.

give permissions to old hard drive

Way 4. Connect an Old HDD to a PC With a USB Docking Station

A USB docking station is another external device that can help you turn your old hard drive into an external component.

an example of a docking station

These components enable you to connect even more devices to your PC, such as audio devices, external hard drives, and many more, to maximize productivity. Although they are primarily used for professional purposes, you can still find these stations, purchase them, and recover data from your old hard drives.

Docking stations are available in most hardware stores or in online shops, such as Best Buy and Amazon. The prices can range from $8 up to $2,000 for professional docking stations.

These devices have numerous ports, including SATA ports you need to connect your old hard drive to your new computer. Find this port, connect your old hard drive to it, and connect the docking station to your PC.

Your files should automatically appear on your screen, and you can access, copy, and save them to a new location, as seen in the example above.

Way 5. Recover Files From an Old Hard Drive via a PC Connection

If you are searching for free yet simple solutions to retrieving data from your old hard drive, you can connect it directly to your PC's motherboard and access your files.

However, you need to be careful with this method to not damage the drive or the motherboard, leading to data loss. You should also choose the correct cables to connect your old hard drive to your new PC to power it up and access your data.

a hard drive and a motherboard

Before you insert your old hard drive, you should remove your new hard drive from your motherboard carefully and store it in a safe place. Then, connect your old hard drive to the same connectors on your motherboard, and insert the correct cables.

After assembling your old/new PC, power it on to access your data and back it up to a safe location. Once you have completed this process, you should repeat the process and replace your old hard drive with your new one.

How To Recover Lost Data From an Old Hard Drive

There are times when your old hard drive is still in working condition, but somehow, the valuable data stored within it seems to have vanished into thin air. Even if you are not sure of the reasons, you can use a reliable data recovery tool to extract this inaccessible content.

One of the most popular and trusted solutions out there is Recoverit – Hard Drive Recovery. Available for both, Windows and macOS, it provides extremely simple yet efficient recovery solutions. Since it supports every major type of hard drive and file system, you won't face any trouble to get data off old hard drive even when it is lost or deleted.

Wondershare Recoverit – Leader in Data Recovery

  • Recovers data from all types and brands of hard drives, including WD, Seagate, Toshiba, Samsung, Dell, etc.
  • Handles 500+ data loss scenarios, such as deletion, formatting, CF card damage, virus attacks, etc.
  • Recovers lost or deleted files, photos, videos, music, emails, and other 1000+ file types effectively, safely and completely.
  • Supports all popular file systems like NTFS, exFAT, FAT32, HFS+, EXT4, APFS, and many more.
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Free Download

You can follow these steps to learn how to get data off a hard drive using Recoverit:

Step1Connect your old hard drive

If the existing system is no longer working, then disconnect your old hard drive from it and connect it to a new computer (using a USB adapter). Install and launch Recoverit Data Recovery on your PC once the connected hard drive is detected. On its home, you can view a dedicated option for the connected disk. Simply select it to start the scanning process.

choose the old hard drive for recovery
Step2Scan your hard drive

Sit back and wait as Recoverit would try to recover hard disk files from the connected source. You can pause or stop the process in between and view the extracted files as well. Though, if you wish to recover all the stored content, then wait for the scan to be over.

scan for lost files in the old hard drive
Step3Preview and save your files

Once the scan is completed, you can view the extracted data under various categories. You can switch between different data types and folders from the left panel. Now, preview the data on the right and select the files you wish to get back. Click on the Recover button and save the selected data to the desired location.

recover data from old hard drive
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Free Download

How To Recover Files From an Old Computer Hard Drive That Won't Boot

It's a familiar situation – you find an old computer that has been collecting dust for years, and suddenly you recall it contains important files, photos, and memories you assumed were gone forever. Excitedly, you plug it in, only to discover that the computer won't start, leaving you worried about your precious data.

Fear not! You have two options to get pictures from an old computer hard drive that won't boot.

Way 1. Use the Windows System Recovery Options

If you own a Windows PC, then you can access a dedicated feature – System Recovery Options in this case. You can perform a system repair or launch Command Prompt to manually enter certain commands.

  1. Firstly, power on your system and enter the Advanced Boot Options by pressing the assigned key
  2. This will launch the System Recovery Options (or the Startup Options in some versions). You can commence the system repair from here or just launch the Command Prompt
    enter windows system recovery options
  3. Once the Command Prompt is launched, enter the following commands to repair the booting problem on the disk:
    bootrec /fixboot
    bootrec /scanos
    bootrec /fixmbr
    bootrec /rebuildbcd

Way 2. Create a Bootable USB

If the disk can't boot itself, then you can fix this by creating another bootable media. To do this, you can also take the assistance of Wondershare Recoverit. The Ultimate version of the tool can be used to convert a supported USB drive to a bootable media, helping you get files off an old Mac or Windows computer hard drive. Before you start your recovery journey, you will need a blank USB drive you will boot.

Video tutorial to recover files from an old Windows computer hard drive:

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Free Download

Video tutorial to retrieve data from an old Mac hard drive:

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Free Download

You can also follow the step-by-step guide below to get data off an old laptop hard drive:

  1. Install Recoverit on your MacBook or PC and run the program.
  2. Select System Crashed Computer and press the Start button to initiate the process.
    start system crashed computer recovery
  3. Connect your blank USB to your desktop.
  4. Select it from the list of available devices and click Create to start.
    select the usb drive
  5. In the next step, the program will ask you to format the blank USB. Press Format to complete this process.
    format the bootable usb drive
  6. After a few moments, the program will create a bootable USB drive. Insert that USB drive into your old MacBook or laptop and restart your device.
    start the old computer with bootable usb
  7. When your device starts booting, enter its BIOS settings to boot the system from the connected USB drive. (The method for turning this option on depends on the operating system and device).
  8. The crashed computer becomes bootable now. You can choose whether you want to copy your disk or select specific files you want to recover.
    choose the old hard drive recovery option

After a couple of moments, you will have all of your favorite files on your new storage device.

Free Download
Free Download

How To Get Data off an Old Broken Hard Drive

Since all the above-mentioned methods may go sideways if not used properly, you may want to opt for the safest solutions of them all. Hiring professionals to pull data off an old hard drive is perfect if you have no data recovery experience or don't want to risk it.

Although it is the priciest option, it's also the most reliable one. Since professional hard drive recovery services have all the tools and solutions, they need to get data off your old dead hard drive, they can easily make your dreams come true.

However, you should be careful when choosing someone to do the job. Make sure they have a successful background, lots of positive reviews, and a trustworthy reputation before you appoint their services.

Useful Tips & Tricks for Successful Old Hard Drive Recovery

Since the data recovery journey may be more challenging than it sounds, you may come across obstacles preventing you from completing the process. However, we have prepared some tips and tricks to help you get out of these situations, ensuring successful results.

Sometimes, your PC may not permit you to access content from your old hard drive due to many hardware and software issues. If you happen to come across some error messages when you insert your old hard drive, you can check out the tips below.

What If Access Is Denied?

One of the most common issues is that your PC won't allow access to the old hard drive. It may occur due to the operating system differences. If you see this message, don't panic. You can easily resolve this problem by trying out different methods.

For instance, you can run the Error Checking tool to see what may be causing access issues with your old drive. This tool can successfully detect and solve any issues you may be experiencing. Moreover, you can repair bad sectors of your drive to ensure everything is working correctly.

One of the easiest solutions is to change the drive letters and paths, as your PC may assign your drive random, inaccessible ones.

denied access to old hard drive

You Don't Have Permission

You will need permission to access all files on your PC. However, since you are inserting an “unknown” drive into your PC, it may require special permissions to access the drive's content. In such cases, you will see a pop-up window requiring permission – you can click the Continue button and grant access to the drive to fix the problem.

If this strategy isn't working, you should change ownership of the file. After this, you should be able to access your files with no further issues.

give permissions to your old hard drive

Old Hard Drive Is Not Detected

There are numerous reasons why your PC may not be detecting your old hard drive. Although it may seem like a hopeless situation, there are solutions that can help you fix a hard disk not detected. For instance, you can try updating and reinstalling the driver to make it recognizable.

You can also try different methods to repair your drive if it's corrupted or damaged. Formatting the drive is also a strategy you can try since, in most cases, your PC won't detect your drive if it was formatted incorrectly.

What To Do With an Old Hard Drive After Successful Recovery

recycling old hard drives

After a successful old hard drive recovery journey, you will have an empty drive you can repurpose. However, you should be particular about the remaining lifespan of your hard drive. You can manage it by considering the following suggestions:

  • Use a data shredder/eraser

Now when you have already taken a backup of your data, it is time to get rid of it wisely. If you want to protect your private content and don't be a victim of identity theft, then this step is a must. To do this, you can use a readily available file shredder or erasing tool that will permanently wipe off your hard drive, beyond the scope of recovery.

  • Reuse or resell it

After deleting all the existing content, you can choose to either reuse or resell it. For instance, you can use it as an external or a backup disk pretty easily. If you want, you can even resell it to someone else as well.

  • Destroy it

A lot of people prefer destroying their hard disks as it contains sensitive information. While there are all kinds of ways to destroy a hard disk, make sure that you follow proper safety measures. You can also use magnets to wipe their data beforehand. Also, try not to burn the disk or cause any unwanted harm. Destroying it with a hammer or any other tool would be the best option.

You can also get creative, dissemble the drive, and create art from it! If it matches your aesthetic, it can truly become a vintage piece!


If you have an old hard drive containing some of your most valuable memories, you may wonder how to get them back and store them safely. In today's guide, we have presented some of the most reliable and successful solutions to help you reach your goals.

In most cases, you will need a helping hand from either an additional hardware device, advanced software, or professionals. However, all these methods will recover your data from an old hard drive.

After successfully recovering data, you should repurpose your device and give it new life, as explained in the text above.

Sue Wayne
Sue Wayne May 14, 24
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