Dell PC - retrieve files from hard drive - pc not bootable

Posted on 2016-09-05
Last Modified: 2016-11-22
I have a Dell PC that is not bootable (may be  power supply issue or a mother board issue) - is it possible for me to remove the hard drive and connect it to some other PC as a secondary drive to retrieve a few files.  Most everything was backed up but I would like to retrieve a PST file and a couple others from the old drive. The old PC was a Windows 7 OptiPlex 780 (the power supply button is amber and the LED buttons lit are 1 & 3) - I called Dell and they told me they could not supply me with replacement parts I would have to go to a local tech vendor.  I am willing to replace the PC but would like to secure a few files before doing that.  Thanks
Question by:mmj1
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LVL 48

Expert Comment

ID: 41785294

You will probably need to Take Ownership of various files or folders for access purposes.

This article may prove useful for recovery of your files.

Author Comment

ID: 41785301
If possible, please provide me with the steps to remove the drive from one pc and connect it to another pc to make it a secondary drive.  Thanks very much.  I haven't done this before so may need complete steps to complete the task.  Thanks
LVL 62

Accepted Solution

☠ MASQ ☠ earned 250 total points
ID: 41785312
Your best option given you haven't done this before is to get hold of a USB drive enclosure for a SATA hard drive (all the 780's use SATA as the drive type), it will come with its own power supply and USB cable and the case simply acts as an interface between the hard drive and USB so it effectively becomes an external hard drive.

You get the drive out of the 780 following the user manual.  Opening the case is slightly different for each case size but you just find the guide you need here:

On most Optiplexes the drive has separate data and power connectors which simply pull out.  The drives are usually mounted on quick release plastic mouldings which will need removing with a crosshead screwdriver before fitting into the enclosure - which has a combined power and data connection.  

You can also do this without an enclosure by opening the case of another computer and connecting the drive to the PCs power supply and SATA connector (needs a SATA cable and a free plug on the PSU) but there's a small chance that the boot order of your PC will be changed with the presence of an additional hard drive and depending on your level of experience you might want to avoid that as a potential obstacle.

SATA enclosures cost around $20
There are loads to choose from, this one picked randomly as an example on Amazon.
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Assisted Solution

by:Michael McDowell
Michael McDowell earned 50 total points
ID: 41785321
There will be some great step by step videos on Youtube about how to get you hard drive out of your PC. Just type in "<your PC make and model> hard drive removal" in fact here's one I've just quickly found:

The easiest way I can think of to retrieve files from an old hard drive is just to use a SATA to USB adaptor - you'll pick one up pretty cheap online. Once you have your hard drive out, confirm that it is in fact SATA (it could be IDE depending on age) by Googling what the connection pins on a SATA hard look like and comparing, get an adaptor, plug in to a different PC and you're all set.
LVL 88

Assisted Solution

rindi earned 50 total points
ID: 41785324
Just make sure you have the extra SATA cable, then connect the disk to the other PC. That's all you need to do. Boot that PC and you newly connected disk should automatically be the 2nd disk on that PC.
LVL 48

Assisted Solution

dbrunton earned 50 total points
ID: 41785325
Optiplex 780

I'll presume this is a SFF (Small Form Factor) but should apply to most 780.  Disconnect power and open box up.  Press ON button and there should be a flash of light on panel as residual power is discharged.

The hard drive will probably be inside a plastic caddy.

The following link shows you how to remove the hard disk from the caddy (you'll need to wind the sound up on this one).

Now you'll need to open your other case up and look for a spare power connector from your PSU and a free SATA port on your motherboard.  If you don't have those then tell us.

You'll need a SATA cable as well and you can use the one in your Dell.  Disconnect it carefully from there.

Going for a walk at present.  Be back in an hour or two.
LVL 70

Assisted Solution

garycase earned 50 total points
ID: 41785548
As noted in several posts above, it's very simple to remove the drive from your old PC.

The easiest way to connect it to another PC is to use a SATA -> USB adapter like this:

You simply connect the adapter to your hard drive (with the included 12v power adapter);  and then plug the USB connector into any other PC and you can access your hard drive.
LVL 92

Assisted Solution

nobus earned 50 total points
ID: 41785590
note that with usb 2 the transfer of files is slow
i prefer to connect the drive directly to a sata cable
this wiki article covers all options :

here a youtube to assist you :
LVL 70

Expert Comment

ID: 41785594
Agree that USB v2 transfers are a bit slow ... but for a one-time retrieval of data it's not bad.

Nevertheless, a direct SATA connection is indeed better; or you can simply spend a bit more and get a USB v3 adapter (which will, of course, only help if the PC you're going to connect the drive to has USB v3 ports).

Author Closing Comment

ID: 41786073
Thank you all so very much for your input.  I was able to remove the hard drive from the Dell and I purchased a SATA drive enclosure.  Once I connected the drive it did read it as an external drive and I was able to secure all of the files I needed from the old PC.  Thanks again!!

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