Can I boot from an external hard drive and recover files from my internal hard drive?


Jan 3, 2018
Hello all!

Okay, so I am going to start out by saying that I'm about 90% sure this topic has not yet been discussed because I can't find a single thread that pinpoints my situation, but I'm going to fill you in with all the detail you need before posing my inquiry. If any other information is needed, please feel free to ask!
I am not spending any more F*%&KING money on this endeavor. I've dropped way too much money into the race car and more is soon to come, so I have no room to budge with funds.

I have an old Toshiba Satellite laptop that I got for my birthday back when Windows Vista was still being put onto PCs from factory. Long story short, I've long since overwritten that hard drive with several different versions of Vista thru means of recovery disks and *cough* totally legal versions of the OS I' happened across in an alley. The hard drive is not dead and there are lots of photos, videos and other files I would like to obtain from it. I think in my younger, more reckless days before I knew anything about laptops I screwed something up, so when I plug the hd into a healthy PC I get "missing boot device" error or something to that effect. Also I can hear it turn on when I had it plugged into a healthy PC, so it does turn on. In addition to this turmoil, the Toshiba CMOS battery must be dead or something, but the laptop itself is completely out of the picture. Disassembled, in pieces, soon to go in the garbage. Toshiba sucks anyway, so no loss.

I don't have a cable or box to just connect it(toshiba hd) to one of my healthy PCs to extract the data that way, all I have to work with is a 1TB External Hard Drive(Oyen Digital U32 Shadow), a slightly newer HP laptop I plan on using as a vessel, some product keys for Win XP, and hopefully some input from you guys. My HP is equipped with Win 10 and I've modified it by removing the screen, lid, and disk drive completely and connecting it to a monitor due to cracked screen.

What I'm hoping to do is install the Toshiba hard drive on my HP and boot from the external hard drive running Win XP. From there I would want to extract whatever files I could from the Toshiba hard drive. Below is a very crude depiction/diagram of what I'm trying to do.

Things I KNOW:
1. OS will operate slow on ext hd.
2. I have already installed XP on a partition of the ext. and tested it, it works.
3. Toshiba HD will run on the HP, I plugged it in when the Toshiba laptop crapped out to find the same boot error message that I'd seen on the Toshiba just before it died.
4. I'm going around my a**hole to get to my elbow with this entire process, but I like doing things on my own and want to be sure I'll be able to get the data from the drive.

Thanks in advance for whatever input you have!

- XBGT IAmWillyamus
"I wonder where I'd be today if I'd been pushing pen to paper instead of catching up on sleep..."



If you are trying to get your files from that laptop drive you are hugely overthinking things. Get a USB external enclosure for $10, say this one, connect that to a computer, copy your files. As long as the disk is actually usable, you won't have any issues. If you could not find a solution already you must have been looking for the wrong thing. A search for "retrieve data from laptop drive" comes up with a ton of options.

If you want to just use a spare laptop, plug in your drive in the laptop, create a Linux Live boot disk to a USB or DVD disk, boot off that disk, copy your files out to your external drive.


Feb 12, 2014
99% yes. The biggest issue though is that authentication techniques changed some from XP to Vista so the weak link is that you are trying to read a drive created with a newer OS with an older OS. If there is no encryption you should probably be fine but if there was even a password on the old account you will need to know it (Windows likes to enforce that.) and this is one transition I've never tried. The Win 10 machine should have no trouble.

The easier solution as hang-the-9 recommended is to create a USB linux boot drive; there are plenty of light Linux versions that will fit on even a 1GB flash drive. As long as the Vista drive wasn't encrypted it won't care what kind of account protection you had and will just read the files allowing you to transfer them to any mounted drive.

I don't know your Oyen Digital U32 Shadow's details but is it SATA based? could you swap the Toshiba Vista drive into that enclosure and hook it up to the Win 10 machine?

The boot device missing error sounds like some mix of GPT/MBR/AHCI/old IDE standard stuff with non-standard boot partitioning and is typical of laptop hard drives from the factory.


Jan 3, 2018

Ive done that (linux boot drive) dozens of times, I don't know why I didn't think of it before.. I've been trying to avoid spending money on this and I'm a huge believer in using what I have (which appears to be an abundance of useless laptop components) to solve these types of issues. Thank you for your input! I'll go ahead and shamefully download a Linux boot drive! XD
Additionally, I like to do things the hard way in a desperate attempt to learn something new. Obviously I could have bought an enclosure and this would have never been an issue, but where's the discovery in that? I like to think I'm adventurous:D


Jan 3, 2018

I'll take all of these things into consideration and probably choose the hardest method because millennials:pt1cable:
The EXT hdd is actually sealed, I was looking at that for quite some time and decided I didn't want to break it trying to find out what the inside looked like. But I'll give all this stuff a good go and let ya know if you're interested!
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