Recovering Pics from PC that Won’t Boot

Recovering Pics from PC that Won’t Boot

By Leo Notenboom

The Question:Hi, Leo. My very dear aunt passed away this summer and I’ve been asked by her family to try and retrieve her photos and any other important docs off of her computer. However, when I start it up, I get to the Windows start up screen and the PC immediately reboots. It’s an older Compaq machine running Windows 2000 Pro. I tried to start it in safe mode and got the same result. Granted, I plugged in all of my user interface tools: keyboard, mouse, etc., which had never been on this machine before. Any suggestions as to what to do would be greatly appreciated. I understand that there are several years worth of grandchildren photos on this PC and we’d really like to retrieve them. I’m thinking my only option might be to crack open the case and pull out the hard drive and put it into a docking station, but I don’t have one and I hate to buy one if there’s a way around that.

Leo’s Answer:

In this excerpt from Answercast #59, I look at two simple ways to access old pictures from a computer that won’t boot.

Data from an old machine

Well, actually, in your situation, it’s unclear what you mean specifically by “docking station,” but what I’m going to recommend sounds very similar to that.

If I were in your shoes, I would open the box, take out the hard drive, and put it in external USB enclosure. They’re not that terribly expensive and after you’re done (after you’ve gotten everything copied and appropriately backed up), you’ve got a nice little external hard drive you can use for other purposes.

Point being here that obviously, your aunt hadn’t been backing up. If the pictures are only on that hard drive, then they haven’t been getting backed up.

USB drive

So the thing to do is like I said, put it in an external drive. Make a USB drive out of it. Connect it up to another computer and immediately start copying all those files off.

Then, immediately start backing up. Those sound like pretty important pictures. The scenario you’ve descried is actually incredibly common – where people have someone who has passed away or who have left a computer behind that has a problem or a computer on which is the only copy of something important.

Most often, it is in fact photographs. That’s why I so frequently stress the importance of backing up or making copies of things.

But a USB enclosure… it’s not going to be terribly expensive and it really does sound like the quickest and most expeditious way to solve this problem.

Read the rest of the story here..

This post is excerpted with permission from Leo Notenboom.

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10 thoughts on “Recovering Pics from PC that Won’t Boot”

  1. Hello Leo,
    Going away from my blinking blue light on WD 1.5tb external… thats Kn—-d…… but i alsohave a laptop that the onboard graphics card has given up, (phillipxX54 feeevents). i have removed the HD and put it in a sata station, and although i can get access to most things, when i try to open my documents, it tell me i dont ave rhe right to access or access dnied… how do i get round that please ?

    or is this the wrong place to ask that type of question…


    Brian Jenkins

  2. ..or you could burn any of a variety of live Linux media to a cd or usb stick, use that to boot the computer and copy the files to removable media from there.
    Back when I was using Windows and before I knew about this I would have used the method Bob suggested and just slaved the drive in another computer because even though it won’t boot, unless the drive is really f***** up the files will still be readable and possible to copy out. You don’t have to buy anything as long as you have another pc with an extra hard drive cable of the right type you can connect it to.

  3. Before buying an external enclosure know if the drive is hde or sata. If the computer is this old might just buy usb to ide or sata adapter.

  4. You don’t need to back up. Just sign up to dropbox – that creates a folder in your documents, so just put your files in it & they’ll be automatically backed up online. Do the same with skydrive for all your spreadsheets and photobucket for your photos.

  5. Morning Folks!

    Perhapes you can get to the bios.. make sure there it will start up with the cd/dvd rom.. and then if it is all possible install a new version of windows but when it ask the make changes or format.. dont do.. just let it make a new install of windows (it will be a clean install of windows with the old version of windows in a folder windows old) and voila… you can use the pc again and will have the data you are looking for (look for it in de windows old folder).
    perhaps this would be of some kind of help. Helped me a few times. Otherwise it would be wise to make a external drive of it as they already said.

    I guess i am ordinary.. without making backups.. I still have it when my c-drive is being formatted or worse

  6. I have a wd 1.5 tb, that has failed, (hundreds of other folk have the same problem looking wds forum). the blinking blue ligh problem !
    i have removed it from its case,, put it a sata station and even in a different pc. it strikes up, does a couple of little grunts and thats it….. sound like mechanicle failure, which means anything i have not backed up will be lost… am i right ? any help appreciated. thanks , Brian

  7. Ordinary folk do not run backups.
    That’s a simple fact.
    If you are PC savy or know your files are mission critical you will of course attend to these issues.
    Often on older PC there is just too little room for backups anyway.
    Leo has suggested a practical remedy that should work but it might be easier to ask a pro to do this & put the pic files on a CD or DVD.

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