How to recover data from laptop hard drive that won t turn on?

When a laptop hard drive fails to turn on, it can be stressful thinking about all the important files and data that may be inaccessible. Photos, documents, music and more could be trapped inside with no easy way to access them. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to recover data from a laptop hard drive that won’t power on.

What causes a laptop hard drive to not turn on?

There are several possible reasons why a laptop hard drive may not power on:

  • Hard drive failure – The hard drive components that read/write data may have mechanically failed.
  • Corrupted hard drive – Errors or bad sectors on the drive prevent it from being readable.
  • Failed hard drive controller – The controller board that manages communications between the laptop and hard drive is damaged.
  • Power issues – Not enough power is reaching the hard drive from the laptop.
  • Damaged connector – The hard drive connector that attaches it to the motherboard is damaged.

The most common causes of failure are either the hard drive itself failing, or the controller that allows the laptop and hard drive to communicate being damaged. Let’s look closer at symptoms for both failures.

Hard drive mechanical failure

If the platters, read/write heads or other internal mechanical parts are damaged, the hard drive will not spin up or be detected by the computer. You may hear odd clicking or beeping noises coming from the hard drive as it tries to start up unsuccessfully. The computer will usually display a message like “No boot device found” if the hard drive cannot be accessed.

Hard drive controller failure

The controller board allows the hard drive and laptop to talk to each other. If it’s damaged, the laptop will not be able to see or access the hard drive even if the drive itself powers on. The laptop will usually show a “Hard drive not detected” or similar error message if the controller is faulty.

Remove the hard drive from the laptop

Once you have determined the laptop hard drive is not turning on, the first step is to physically remove it from the computer. This allows you to connect it to another computer or external dock to see if the drive will turn on outside of that laptop.

To remove the hard drive:

  1. Turn off the laptop and disconnect AC power.
  2. Refer to a teardown guide for your specific laptop model to locate the hard drive bay and see how to remove the drive.
  3. Remove any screws securing the hard drive in place.
  4. Gently slide the hard drive out from the hard drive bay.
  5. Avoid touching the circuit board on the bottom of the hard drive.

Be careful when removing the hard drive from the laptop. Never force it out quickly or you could damage the hard drive connectors. The exact location and method to remove the drive varies between different makes and models. Refer to a disassembly guide to avoid accidentally damaging components.

Connect the hard drive externally

With the hard drive removed from the laptop, you can now connect it to another computer externally using a SATA to USB adapter or hard drive dock. This bypasses any failed controller or power issues inside the original laptop.

To connect the hard drive externally:

  1. Obtain a SATA to USB adapter or hard drive dock.
  2. Plug the hard drive into the external connector, ensuring the SATA ports align properly.
  3. Connect the hard drive to another working computer via USB.

If the hard drive is detected by the new computer and turns on, then you know the drive itself is likely still intact and workable. This points to the laptop having a failed SATA controller or other issue preventing detection of the drive.

However, if the hard drive still does not power on when connected externally, then the drive itself has failed or been damaged in some way. The next steps will help recover data regardless.

Try accessing the hard drive data

With the hard drive connected externally to a working computer, see if you can directly access the file contents. This will confirm if the drive is still functioning or not.

On Windows:

  1. Open File Explorer and check if the external hard drive shows up.
  2. Browse files and folders on the drive to verify the data is intact.
  3. If successful, copy important files from the drive to save them externally.

On Mac:

  1. Open Finder and check if the external drive shows up.
  2. Browse files and folders to make sure files are present.
  3. If possible, drag and drop important files to another drive to back them up.

If you can directly view files on the external hard drive, congratulations! Your data should be recoverable. Be sure to copy important files off the drive to another device as soon as possible in case of further failure.

If the drive does not show up externally

If the external hard drive still won’t power on or be detected, mechanical failure is preventing access to your data. Don’t panic yet! There are still recovery options available, but will require specialized data recovery software.

Attempt data recovery with software

When an external hard drive has failed or is not accessible, data recovery software provides the best chance of salvaging files from the drive. Specialized software can read drives that won’t mount or turn on.

Software to try for hard drive data recovery:

  • Recuva – Free hard drive recovery utility for Windows systems.
  • EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard – Data recovery app with free trial available.
  • Stellar Data Recovery – Recovers lost files from hard drives and storage media.
  • Disk Drill – Mac and Windows support to recover lost partitions and data.

These programs scan the hard drive sector by sector to extract files even if the drive cannot startup normally. They can recover documents, pictures, video, music and more from drives that fail to mount.

How to recover files using data recovery software

Follow these general steps when using data recovery software on an undetected external drive:

  1. Download and install the data recovery software.
  2. Connect the external hard drive to the computer.
  3. Open the recovery software and scan the external drive.
  4. Preview found files to locate your data.
  5. Select the files you want to recover.
  6. Choose a folder to save the recovered files to.
  7. Complete the file recovery process.

Advanced options may be available to target specific file types like photos, documents, archives, etc. Refer to the software’s instructions for full guidance on recovering lost data from an unresponsive drive.

Tips for success

Follow these tips when using data recovery software for the best results:

  • Scan the entire drive – Don’t just quick scan, perform a full deep scan on the entire external drive.
  • Save to another drive – Recover files to a different healthy drive, not the failing one.
  • Avoid writing to the drive – Don’t save anything that could overwrite deleted files.

Recovering data from a non-responsive drive takes patience. The software needs time to thoroughly scan the drive platters for recoverable data. But the investment is worthwhile to rescue your important files.

Send for professional data recovery

If DIY software cannot recover anything from your external laptop drive, then professional data recovery may be your last resort. Specialty data recovery experts use advanced techniques in a dust-free cleanroom environment to extract data from failed drives.

Professional recovery options:

  • Local data recovery shop – Some computer repair stores offer data recovery services.
  • Mail-in recovery service – Ship your drive to a dedicated recovery lab.
  • In-lab recovery service – Visit a cleanroom recovery facility in-person.

These professional services can cost anywhere from $300 to $2500+ depending on the extent of drive damage. But they utilize specialized hardware and methods that give the highest chance for data recovery.

When to use professional recovery

Consider professional-grade data recovery if:

  • DIY software found no files on the drive.
  • The external drive makes unusual noises during power up.
  • There is obvious physical damage to the drive casing.
  • Critical or irreplaceable data is inaccessible.

Mechanical failure requires opening the hard drive in a dust-free environment and possibly repairing or swapping damaged components. Amateur attempts often make reliable recovery impossible. Trust a pro if software cannot find your important files.

Preventing hard drive failure

While you hopefully now know how to recover data from a crashed drive, prevention is the best medicine when it comes to hard drives. Follow these tips to help avoid failures before they happen:

  • Handle hard drives gently – Drops, bumps, and shocks can damage delicate components.
  • Don’t move laptops when powered on – The read/write head can hit the platters and corrupt data.
  • Use surge protectors – Electrical spikes can fry electronics and firmware.
  • Keep drives and laptops cool – Excessive heat also damages drive components over time.
  • Watch for early failure signs – Odd noises, slow performance, and read/write issues precede crashes.
  • Backup data regularly – Having backups avoids relying on damaged drives for originals.

Monitoring drive health tools like S.M.A.R.T. stats can also provide advance warning if failure looms. Being careful with storage devices and keeping intact backups limits the need for drastic data recovery measures.

Recover data successfully from a crashed drive

Recovering data from a laptop hard drive that won’t turn on takes patience but is usually possible with the right tools. Remove the drive from the laptop, connect it externally to a working PC, and use recovery software or professional assistance to retrieve important files. Just don’t overwrite the failing drive and your data stands a good chance of being rescued.