Sometimes, a computer breaks down, and the the hard drive -- with all its precious data -- becomes inaccessible. When specific components of a desktop computer break down, they can be replaced easily. For a laptop, however, regaining access is a bit trickier:
- When the keyboard fails, attach an external keyboard; I recommend a corded keyboard attached to a USB port, as Bluetooth keyboards are not as quick to set up in an emergency.
- When the screen fails, attach an external monitor to the laptop's HDMI, VGA, or USB-C port.
- When other components fail, such as the hinges break or the battery no longer holds a charge, then it's time for a new laptop! (Replacement batteries often available, but can be tricky to replace in today's laptops.) I recommend buying a reconditioned one from your local geek computer store or eBay.
- The worst breakdown I ever encountered was when the soldered-in RAM went bad in my high-end Lenovo laptop, shortly after the warranty expired; I've never bought a Lenovo since. (Fortunately, my credit card's extended warranty paid for the replacement, an HP Spectre 360.)
- The most frustrating case was a neighbor's 12-year-old laptop that was so slow it was nigh-on unusable.
- The strangest case was when an elderly relative sprayed WD-40 on the hinges of his laptop -- don't ask me why! -- which led to the screen whiteing out.
- The most irresponsible was when another relative banged the keyboard on her laptop in frustration, damaging the hard drive. I was able to retrieve some, but not all, of the data from it.
In some these cases, I had to pull the hard drive and then stick it into an external drive enclosure to access the data with another computer. The problem is that Windows guards Libraries to the person's login name. When I try to access Libraries, AppData, and other folders with my computer, Windows tells me I don't have permission and blocks me from accessing the folders.
Fortunately, Microsoft didn't try very hard in locking down the Libraries folders. Here is how to gain access.
- After attaching the drive with the external enclosure, navigate to the Users folder:
- Open the username folder (usually the name of the person whose drive you are recovering, such as Ralph or Sieglinde); you'll find that you cannot.
- Right click username, and then choose Properties.
- In the Properties dialog box, choose the Security tab.
5. You need to add a user name, so click Edit.
6. In the Permissions for Username dialog box, click Add.
7. In the oddly-named Select User Name or Groups dialog box, notice the Enter the object names to select area. Here is where you enter "Everyone" which lets anyone access the folder.
9. Back in the Permissions for Username dialog box, notice the Permissions for Everyone area. Across from Full Control, click the box under Allow. Click OK.
10. Click OK to close the Properties dialog box. Windows will now spend some time changing the permission on every folder and every file under username -- it might take along time, depending on the number of files and folders.
After this, you should be able to access all those precious files!