Windows Restore — Saving Data

Hard Drive Access after a Computer Crash or Virus Infection

Occasionally viruses or malware are so destructive or infections are so complete that saving data using the infected machine is not possible. In the case of a virus or malware attack, the windows restore or system restore command is rarely helpful. When computer technicians or repair shops are unable remove a virus with a scan or to boot up the system and back-up the data, typically an operating system reinstallation is necessary, but the OS reinstall wipes all user data off of the hard drive.

There is, however, a tool used by

computer technicians that makes saving data possible with the hard drive out of the machine. When the hard drive is installed on an infected system, viruses or malware, in order to protect themselves, disable system components and don’t allow some necessary functionality. Outside of the infected machine viruses are less able to protect themselves. Hard drives are also typically fairly simple to remove and very little knowledge about computers is necessary to perform the operation.

To recover data on a disabled PC, first try to locate the long version of the manual for your desktop or laptop and find a diagram that explains where the hard drive is located. In a laptop, the hard drive is typically located under one of the screwed-on panels on the bottom of the machine. You will probably need a small screwdriver to remove the screws. After removing the panel, just pull the hard drive out the way you would pull the battery out of your mobile phone.

The tool you will need to plug the hard drive into for saving data that can’t be accessed using the PC is called a hard drive docking station, sometimes referred to as a toaster. The hard drive dock plugs into a separate computer via a USB

connection and the hard drive is inserted into it. Be careful to match the pin pattern, and don’t force it. There is more than one variety of hard drive pin pattern or port style, so you will need a hard drive docking station that works with your specific model of hard drive. There are not, however, very many different pin patterns or port styles, and the vast majority are serial ATA (SATA) or some older models are called parallel or IDE. Odds are that you will not have a lot of trouble finding a docking station that works with your hard drive. Just google the serial number on your hard drive after you remove it and find out what the port is called, or take the hard drive with you to the computer store and ask an associate which docking station you need.

If you are successful at saving data, you can then replace the hard drive and reinstall the operating system from the recovery partition or the recovery discs that you made (hopefully) when you first purchased your computer – advice available here. You can then restore your data from the computer you backed it up to with the hard drive docking station.


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Security software for the Windows Operating System. Based in Ohio, U.S.
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