How to Retrieve Files From a Damaged Windows Laptop

3 minute read

Let’s assume that your laptop broke down, but you want to save your personal files from it. In this tutorial we will show you how to recover your files from a broken laptop, assuming that your hard drive is still working. You can use this guide to recover your files if your laptop won’t turn on, or if your display is damaged, but we have to mention that this guide won’t help you recover your files if your hard drive isn’t working.
Broken Laptop wind8appsBefore we start, you’ll need an external USB enclosure for 2.5″  hard drives.
Firstly you’ll need to remove the hard drive from the laptop. If the hard drive has mounting brackets or caddy you’ll have to separate them from the hard drive. As for the hard drive type, most laptops use 2.5” hard drives, and they can be IDE or SATA hard drives. We’ll show you the difference between the two in the following pictures.


The IDE hard drive connector has two rows of pins.

ide hard disk drive wind8apps2.5″ SATA HARD DRIVE

The SATA hard drive has two flat connectors. One of these connectors is used for data and one for power.

We also have to mention that same type of connectors are used in 3.5″ SATA desktop hard drives which means that you can connect a 2.5″ hard drive from your laptop directly to a desktop PC using same cables.

sata 2.5 inch wind8apps


If you don’t have external USB enclosure for 2.5″ hard drive, you’ll have to purchase one, just keep in mind that your purchase IDE or SATA enclosure depending on the type of your hard drive, since IDE enclosures aren’t compatible with SATA hard drives and vice versa.

We recommend NexStar brand but any other brand should work too. For IDE hard drives you can use NexStar 2.5″ IDE HDD enclosure. For SATA hard drives you can use NexStar 2.5″ SATA HDD enclosure.


Install your IDE or SATA hard drive into the enclosure.


Now you can connect your hard drive enclosure with a working PC via USB. After connecting hard drive enclosure with your PC, it should be detected by the computer automatically and external hard drive will appear in My Computer. Now you can access it, and save any files you need from your laptop. We have to mention that Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 keep user files in different locations, so here are few tips how to find them.

In Windows XP you’ll find user files in the following path:

C:\Documents and Settings\User Account

In Windows Vista and Windows 7 you’ll find user files in the following path:

C:\Users\User Account

Remember, C:\ is the main system drive, but the external hard drive will have a different letter, but the path to user files will remain the same.

“Access is Denied” error message

While accessing user files you can get “Access is Denied” error message, this happens because your user account on the broken laptop was protected by a password, but there’s a way to fix that.

In order to get access to user files on the external hard drive you’ll have to take ownership over the user folder. In order to take ownership over Users folder (if you had Windows Vista or Windows 7 installed) or Documents and Settings folder (if you have Windows XP installed) you’ll need to follow these steps.


  1. Find files located on the external hard drive and right click on Users folder (if you had Windows Vista or Windows 7 installed) or right click on Documents and Settings folder (if you had Windows XP installed) and after that click on Properties.
  2. Head over to the Security tab in User Properties windows.
  3. Now click on Advanced button.


  1. Click on Owner tab in Advanced Security Settings for Users window.
  2. Now click on Edit button.


  1. Left click on Administrators group.
  2. Check the Replace owner on subcontainers and objects box.
  3. Click OK button.


When Windows Security pops up, click Yes. We have to warn you that process of taking ownership might take a while, this depends on how many files you have in Users or Documents and Settings folder, so you might have to wait for a bit. After this process is done, you should be able access to all of your files.

Read Also: Fix: Windows Apps are ‘Not Installed Correctly’

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