066: How to get the files/photos back from an old computer. Data Recovery 101

Hey there do-it-yourself technicians. Today we’re gonna look at getting some old photos back off a really old PC.

Pat bought this old machine in and it does absolutely nothing. So let’s see what we can do. The first thing I’m going to do is test the power supply to see if the machine’s actually getting any power at all.

I’ve got this little Power Supply Tester which is really handy and I’ve had for years. You can still buy similar sorts of things, I’ll put a link up above if you’re looking for one.

So this is what she looks like inside all we have to do is get the power supply cables off the motherboard, the right way around and plug them into the tester. There’s no power switch on the back so it can’t be that.

This power supply is dead. We could put in another power supply but, realistically, Pat just wants the photos off it.

We don’t need to get Windows up and running at all so I don’t think it’s worth it.

So let’s hit Plan B. The hard drive in this machine is an old IDE one that going to make it a little more tricky than if it was a bit more modern SATA, but there’s always a solution. An IDE hard drive is very easily identified by the big fat connector which plugs into this ribbon cable and then the separate power supply which is this four-wire Molex connector.

So where do we go from here? In my tool kit, I have this old piece of technology which is an IDE to USB adapter. It plugs into power (because of the power requirements of the older hard drive) and it plugs into USB.

And somebody screwed it shut! Back in a sec.

This is what it looks like inside. Those same two connectors and an extra connector that plugs in the light and the button at the front, which we don’t care about in this case. In fact, we don’t need that bit at all.

We just plug the hard drive in, now plug it into a power point. Plug the cable into my laptop, turn it on and see what happens. I don’t know if you can hear the drive spinning up but now it’s working.

So here we are in Windows, with the external drive plugged in and a space to recover the data. This looks like Windows XP so we’re going to go into the Documents and Settings folder.

No terribly descriptive user names here: Administrator and User. The Default User is no good to us and All Users are not much help either. Both of these folders say there’s nothing in them. None of them have been used since 2010, which could easily be the last time this machine was started.

Let’s open the user folder. It won’t let us, [it] says we don’t have permission, but that’s permission on this machine, so clicking continue will allow us access after a minute or two. Here’s the contents of the User folder. We don’t want most of these, but the interesting ones are My Documents and Desktop. In the Desktop folder we have nothing interesting whatsoever, just some icons. In My Documents okay we’ve got a couple of images, some downloads which are probably way out of date and useless, an empty Movie folder, an empty Pictures folder and a setup folder hmm not much here at all. Inside My Pictures, yeah it’s just the sample pictures link, so let’s go back.

Nothing else here, it says there is 3Gb in total, must be in that DVDFab folder. Yep well that’s probably not much good to us. There’s nothing in there no, no. Let’s see what’s in the temp folder. 3Gb of temp files. Obviously, somebody was in the process of burning a DVD. Let’s go all the way back out and check the Administrator’s folder.

Again we have to [click] continue to get permission. This looks pretty clean as well, nothing at all on the Desktop and nothing in the My Documents directory. Hmm. Interesting, it’s worth noting from those two NTUser files at the bottom that this machine hasn’t been used since 2012. That was the last time this user was logged in, but none of the files have been touched since 2007 in this user so it looks like there’s probably nothing here at all.

Just double-check the User folder yeah the login there’s the same, 2011 2012 but none of the files have been touched much, so it looks like there’s actually not really anything on this machine at all, other than a couple of cute images. Well, that turned out to be a bit of a non-event for any files Pat might have wanted off that machine, but at least she knows now that there weren’t any.

It’s worth noting that if the hard drive in the machine has been a SATA hard drive that looked like this you can actually buy quite cheaply a dock like this with the same USB cable although this one can be USB 3 because the technology had advanced by then and the hard drive simply slots into the dock and then you can get your files off in the same way. It’s also designed to take a 2 1/2″ laptop hard drive which is really handy.

Anyway, it all worked out in the end. I hope that was helpful. Thank you so much for watching. At The Tech Doctor, our mission is to help you become your own technician and navigate the technology maze. There are some other episodes you might not have seen here and here and you can subscribe to all our new episodes down here and if you click up here there’s a Facebook group where you can get your questions answered.

Thank you so much for watching and have an amazing day!

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