Can I Recover Files From a Dead Hard Drive?

Are My Files Lost Forever if My Computer is Toast?

Photo of a broken hard drive
© Aurelian Gogonea / E+ / Getty Images

Can you recover files from a failed hard drive with a data recovery tool?

How would you even run a file recovery program if your computer's hard drive has failed and nothing is working?

The following question is one of many you'll see in my File Recovery FAQ:

"The hard drive in my computer has failed. Is there any chance a data recovery program will be able to get my data off?"

If by failed you mean a physical problem with the hard drive, then no, a file recovery program isn't likely to help.

Since file recovery software needs access to your hard drive like any other program, it is only valuable if the hard drive is in otherwise working order.

Physical damage to a hard drive, or other storage device, doesn't mean all hope is lost, it just means that a file recovery tool isn't your next step. Your best solution to recover data from a damaged hard drive is to employ the services of a data recovery service. These services have the specialized hardware, expertise, and lab environments necessary to help repair and restore the data from damaged hard drives.

However, if you're experiencing a BSOD or some other major error or situation that's just preventing Windows from starting properly, that doesn't necessarily mean that your hard drive has a physical or unrecoverable problem.

In fact, just because your computer won't start, doesn't at all mean your files are gone - it just means that you can't access them right now.

What you need to do is get your computer started again. See How To Fix a Computer That Won't Turn On for help doing that.

If that doesn't work, connecting the hard drive with your important data on it to another computer, either directly or via a USB hard drive enclosure, is your next best solution.