Eventually, all technology dies.  No system is made to last forever, which means you’ve always got to be prepared for the day it eventually craps out on you. Unfortunately, I wasn’t prepared for my old laptop to stop working (even though I really should have seen it coming). It was an old beast of a system, a second-generation XPS M1730. It gave me a fairly good run before it finally bit it, lasting almost a full eight years (well beyond its projected life, for sure). Eventually, however, it finally couldn’t take anymore. The motherboard gave out, and not even purchasing a new AC adapter was enough to save it.

Of course, by this point I already had a new laptop and my desktop, so I wasn’t terribly concerned. Still, there were a few files on there that I would’ve liked to access before it died, but such is life. I gave the thing up for dead and moved on…until I realized that the hard drive might actually be salvageable. I decided at that point that it was high time I do a bit of research. Here’s what my search turned up; a few tactics you can use to retrieve lost data in the event that your laptop decides to take a permanent nap.

Buy A Hard Drive Disk Enclosure

If you’re positive it’s not the hard drive that’s borked (and you know you can access said hard drive with relative ease), then all you need to do is go to your nearest electronics store and purchase yourself a hard drive disk enclosure. These handy tools allow you to turn any standard hard disk into a portable drive, meaning you’ll be able to access all the files that were on your old system with relative ease. There’s just one small issue you might run into here: access control. Particularly if your system was running an older version of Windows, you’re going to need to change the ownership of pretty much every file and folder in there. Thankfully, this is fairly simple if you know what you’re doing. Right click the folder in question, and access the Properties dialogue. Click over to the Security tab, and select Advanced properties. From there, change the ownership of all folders and files to your account. Make sure you’ve selected the box that applies the changes to all subfiles and folders, too.

Pop The Hard Drive Into A Desktop

Another easy fix, assuming you’ve the space, is to simply install your hard drive into a desktop. I wouldn’t recommend this if your system died due to a software failure (such as a virus), as this could potentially infect whatever other system you install the drive into. Still, if you’re confident you can get the files off your drive without causing any permanent damage, it’s your call. Go ahead, but note that you’ll be wholly responsible for the consequences.

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Use A Firewire Cable

If you’re using a Mac, you can use a FireWire cable to hook your dead macbook up to a working system (make sure the working mac isn’t turned on when you do this). As your Mac powers up, press the T key until the FireWire icon appears. This should give you access to the dead laptop’s hard drive, allowing you to salvage whatever files may be left on there.

Cross Your Fingers And Pay For Data Recovery

If your hard drive suffered physical damage (or it’s effectively impossible to retrieve the data any other way), then you might be left with only one choice: take it into a licensed repair tech or retailer and pay for data recovery. This can get rather pricey, unfortunately. As such, my recommendation is that unless you’ve information on that old drive that you desperately need, it might better to just let it die.