This week I've read of several people whose computers' hard drives have failed: most of them ended up losing their work or paying someone a lot of money to recover their work, but when it happened to me I didn't lose a single bit of work and it only cost me £20, thanks to my lovely computer supplier (who is not Fujitsu Siemens and is helping me sort out my current problem).
About six months ago I had a big computer meltdown. My hard drive had failed completely: I couldn't boot it, and couldn't do anything but watch it do... nothing.
I'd not backed up for over a month.
Luckily the person who supplied me with my computer told me what to do. Here's what I learned from him. If you're careful it should work for you too: but you can't blame me if it doesn't work because I am only a writer, and not an electrician or a computer expert: this is what I did, and it worked for me.
The first thing to do is nothing. Do not attempt to repair the hard drive! This is very important, because that repair might well end up reinstalling Windows which will overwrite everything on the disk. Turn your computer off and go and buy a USB hard drive caddy. There are different kinds: Maplins sells a universal caddy for about £40, but if you know what kind of hard drive you have, you can find them more cheaply: my two hard drives are SATAs, but you can also get IDE drives (apparently). I bought a SATA hard drive caddy for £20 from my local computer shop.
Open up the computer box and look for the hard drive: mine is about four inches wide, six inches long and half an inch deep and is connected to everything else by a ribbon cable about two inches wide. If you're not sure what the hard drive is, it might help you to look at the connections in the caddy and see what you've got inside your computer which will fit those connections.
Right. Whip out the hard drive, whack it into the caddy, and then plug the caddy's USB connection into a different computer which is switched on. Then all you have to do is use Windows Explorer to copy everything from the old, damaged hard drive onto the other machine. I found it really easy: it took less than an hour, and I didn't lose a thing.
Once you've got all your data peeled out of the damaged drive you can put it back into its original computer, phone your supplier's technical support, and follow their guidance to repair or reformat the drive as required.
Honestly. It was not difficult. If I can do it then so can you all. But it would have been easier if I'd have backed up. Point is, back up as often as you can but if you forget and your computer goes into meltdown, make sure you retrieve what you can before you try to mend the hard drive.