How to Save Data From a PC That Won't Boot

Troubleshooting a computer that won’t start is frustrating, but the panic of losing your data is far worse. If you can’t get your computer to boot and you don’t have a backup, don’t freak out just yet; you have a few options.

There’s always a possibility your hard drive is corrupted or dead, in which case data recovery is going to be costly or impossible. But in many cases, your computer may not boot for other reasons: a failing power supply, a corrupted boot sector, or any other number of quirks that leave your important data—photos, documents, and so on—intact. So if you can’t get the darn thing to turn on, it’s probably time to see if that data is salvageable.

There are two primary ways I recommend retrieving that data: one requires a little software know-how, while the other requires a little hardware finesse. Both require an external drive to copy the data to, which you can use to store your files while you repair or replace your computer. Don’t fret if you aren’t super experienced; you can handle this as long as you follow the instructions closely.

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