How to Get Files Off an Old Hard Drive?

Wondering how you can get files off an old hard drive? If your computer is no longer functioning, and you need its data, you need to apply several professional data recovery methods or tools. Recovering the data may not be possible, but the troubleshooting tips that we have mentioned can help you to execute easy retrieval. 

Here are some useful and easy methods that you can apply to connect your hard drive to your current computer and recover data from an old hard drive

Why It Is Important to Get Files off an Old Hard?

There are several situations under which you need to get files off an old hard disk. Some of these are given below:

  • In a dead system, Windows OS fails to boot from the old disk, and then you have to recover all its data.
  • Your PC can start up properly from the old hard drive; you can keep the same data and OS as your old PC on the new one.

Based on the above situations, the method to retrieve files from your old hard drive varies. So, let’s discuss how to get data off an old hard drive in all these different cases.

How do I Get Data Off an Old Hard Drive?

Getting the data from your old hard disk drive is easier than it seems. If you disconnect your hard drive from its original PC and kept free for quite a long, the data can be easily retrieved.

You can opt for any of the following methods to know how to connect a hard drive to your PC or laptop:

  • Connect it via a USB adapter cable
  • Attach an external HDD
  • You can even build your external HDD
  • Use a USB docking station to connect disk drives
  • Install the disk or HDD on your PC

Some of these methods are quite complex while others are simpler to implement. Let’s briefly check each of them in turn.

Method 01: Access an Old Hard Drive With an Adapter

You can directly connect a hard disk drive to any PC using a special USB HDD adapter. These adapters usually come with connections for SATA and IDE/PATA drives and our old hard drive adapters.

HDDs currently use the SATA connection, which comprises a small “L” shaped connector and a thin, flat cable. You can connect these devices using a slightly wider “L” connector, or a Molex four-pin connector. 

However, IDE/PATA drives rely upon a wider ribbon cable connector along with a Molex connector. Connecting a USB cable adapter to your HDD signifies identifying the correct connection type and plugging in the HDD. The hard drive would be then detected as a USB device by your device OS, ready for you to browse.

Method 02: Mount the HDD Into an External Enclosure

If you want to access this hard disk drive regularly, you need to use an external HDD enclosure. Then, you can install your disk drive in it. This process is somehow similar to hacking your existing external HDD. The only difference is that the enclosure will provide you with some instructions on how to install the driver. You also need to ensure that the enclosure is the right size to accommodate your disk drive. It is important to note that the HDDs come in 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch varieties.

After successfully installing your HDD in the new enclosure, connect it to your PC via USB. Then, power it up and start the data-retrieving process. This method somehow allows you to use the disk as an external HDD when all the missing data gets recovered. Just Connect a reformatted drive to any computer or media device as external storage.

Method 03: Use Window’s Built-in Tool + External Drive

You can apply this professional data recovery method when you have to install or start afresh Windows OS on your device. You can make use of the Windows Easy Transfer feature to use this method. All you need is an external hard drive to completely transfer data such as documents, photos, videos, etc. from the old hard drive. 

Now, swap the old drive with a new drive. Once the swapping is done, you can start copying the data that you transferred to an external hard drive. Go through the following steps to copy data from the external hard drive to the new one.

Step 1: Tap the Windows button and type Windows Easy Transfer in the search box. Open the tool from the navigation menu and click “Next” to proceed.

Step 2: Noe, choose the attached external hard drive or USB drive.

Step 3: When you get the “This is My New Computer” prompt, select NO and click the install button on an external hard drive. 

Once you are done with the above steps, Windows will automatically start copying your data and related settings to the external drive.

Method 04: Extract and Copy Data from Old Drive to the New

The above-mentioned method is a bit longer and takes more time to transfer complete data from an old hard drive to an external drive. If you don’t want to involve any intermediate drive, you can connect your new and old drives using a USB-to-SATA-IDE adapter or cable. You also need to connect a computer or laptop hard drive enclosure using a USB cable to hold the old drive. 

If you are using the laptop, opt for a hard drive upgrade kit. This kit actually includes the enclosure and the cloning software from the old drive to the new one. In this method, you will have two options: 

  • First, cloning the old hard drive, and 
  • Secondly, copying just the data.

Option 1: Cloning the Old Hard Drive:

Step 1: Use a USB cable to connect the new hard drive to the laptop.

Step 2: Now, use cloning software and clone the old hard drive onto the new hard drive.

Step 3: At last, disconnect the old drive and install the new one.

Option 2: Copying just the Data:

Step 1: Insert the new drive into your laptop or computer.

Step 2: Now, you have to install Windows OS and other important apps on the new hard drive.

Step 3: Finally, connect the old drive using a USB cable or enclosure and copy the data folders to the new one.

Method 05: Use the Professional Data Recovery Software:

All the preferred and tested manual methods that we have provided above are quite time-consuming. But in these cases, you may experience Windows data loss issues.

To avoid such data loss, we recommend you use Stellar Stellar Data Recovery Professional software. This professional data recovery software allows you to recover data from corrupt, damaged, formatted, and inaccessible hard drives. It also supports recovery from NTFS, exFAT, and FAT (FAT16/FAT32) formatted drives. 


Getting the data off an old hard drive is a very tedious but quick process. You must have deep technical expertise to perform these methods. However, if your hard drive is in bad and unreadable condition, we recommend you use professional data recovery software. This software can extract data from the hard drive that are not available to you.