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.
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.
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.
This post is excerpted with permission from Leo Notenboom.