How to Access Hard Drive Data without OS

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My computer crashed and the OS has been corrupted. What can I do to access hard drive data without OS?

Operating systems can run into a lot of problems that are challenging to repair. One such problem is not being able to access hard drive data without OS, and this can happen for a lot of different reasons. The best thing to do is seek a solution to retrieve as much of your data as possible and then deal with the OS repair. So, to get over the first hurdle, we’ve got the top solutions for accessing a hard drive without a fully functional operating system.

Solution 1. Copy Hard Drive Data from the Command Prompt

Our first solution to recover data from hard drive without OS uses the Command Prompt. With this method, all you have to do is enter a command into this Windows utility and it’ll copy your hard drive data to another location (e.g. a memory stick).

Step 1. Open the Command Prompt utility.

Step 2. Type the command: “copy C:\Users:\Username\filename.doc F:\NewFolder\filename.doc”. Note that the first directory is the file’s current location, and the second directory is where the file will be copied to. Simply change these locations based on the file you are copying.

Copy Hard Drive Data from the Command Prompt

Step 3. Repeat this with all the files you want to copy from the hard drive.

Be cautious when using this method though. There is a huge disadvantage, especially for less tech-savvy users, of using the Command Prompt wrongly. It requires some knowledge of computers and how to use the commands properly and if you aren’t careful, you may overwrite files and there’s no way to undo this.

Solution 2. Recover Hard Drive Data Without OS via Windows System Repair Feature

The next solution is a great way of fixing the Windows problem that has caused issues with users trying to access hard drive data when OS won’t boot. Windows System Repair feature will appear after a Windows PC has crashed due to core system errors, and its purpose is to repair the issue as opposed to only retrieving data.

When you encounter the System Repair menu, choose to “Launch Startup Repair” and let the tool do its job. After running it, Windows should successfully find and repair the main problem.

Recover Hard Drive Data without OS via Windows System Repair Feature

The downside of this solution is that you can’t guarantee Windows System Repair is going to appear, it doesn’t appear for everyone. In addition, it’s a Windows feature and not a Mac feature. So if you have a Mac computer, a different solution is necessary.

Solution 3. Perform System Restore to Access Hard Drive Data Without OS

Perhaps you still can’t access your hard drive. No problem, we’ve got another solution you can try and for this, you’ll have to do a system restore. Follow these steps to do so:

Step 1. Turn on your Windows computer and as it is loading, press the F8 key repeatedly.

Step 2. Windows will display the “Advanced Boot Options” menu, from this you must choose “Repair Your Computer” and press the Enter key.

Step 3. Choose the keyboard input option, press “Next”, and type the computer’s user and password. Press “OK” to proceed.

Perform System Restore to Access Hard Drive Data without OS

Step 4. On the following menu, click “System Restore” and go through each of the steps that are presented on-screen.

Perform System Restore to Access Hard Drive Data without OS

Step 5. Once you successfully follow these instructions, restart your PC and check if this resolves the hard drive access issue.

This method isn’t going to work for Mac computers, but it’s worth trying on Windows PCs.

Solution 4. Use Another Computer to Recover Hard Drive Data

If the system restore doesn’t help you, another thing worth trying to backup data from hard disk without OS is putting it into a different computer. To do this you’ll need to have a good understanding of how computer hardware works.

All you need to do is to open up your computer, unplug the appropriate cables from the problematic hard drive, open up the second computer, and plug it in accordingly.

After powering on the other computer, you should find the hard drive’s contents accessible. From there you’ll be able to take a backup of the files you thought you were lost.

Solution 5. Recover Hard Drive with Windows Recovery/Installation Disc

Anyone who hasn’t yet found a resolution in the previous fixes might find that this next fix does what they’re hoping for. Recovering data from a severely damaged system installation can be done with a Windows recovery/installation disc.

This is basically a saved version of the operating system from when it was functioning perfectly, and here’s how to restore it:

Step 1. Connect the recovery/installation disc to your computer.

Step 2. Turn on your Windows computer and press F8 as it is loading.

Step 3. Choose the option “Repair Your Computer”, and after choosing the input method for your keyboard, press “Next”.

Step 4. Enter your Windows account details and press the “OK” button to proceed to “System Recovery Options”.

Step 5. Click on “System Restore” and check the option “Restore your computer using a system image that you created earlier”, and click on “Next”.

Recover Hard Drive with Windows Recovery/Installation Disc

Step 6. Follow the remainder of the instructions that are given to you to recover from the disc.

The catch with this solution is that whilst it provides access hard drive data without OS, you must have prepared the recovery disc before the problem arose. Otherwise, you’ll need to keep looking for a fix.

Solution 6. Restore Data from Hard Drive with Software

Last of all, if none of the 5 solutions you’ve tried so far has been able to recover data from hard drive without OS, your best bet is to use a third-party software solution. Among the available tools, iMyFone AnyRecover is the most effective way to recover your data.


1,000,000 + Downloads

Features of iMyFone AnyRecover:        

Recovers 1000+ different types of data from an inaccessible hard drive.

Works to restore data from inaccessible hard drives on Windows and Mac computers.

Data can be selectively restored from the problematic hard drive (instead of recovering all files).

Can recover data in other situations like accidental deletion, formatted disc, and from external storage devices too.

Easy to use without assistance from an expert.

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Steps to recover hard drive data without OS:

Step 1. Prepare another working computer and a blank USB drive or CD/DVD for computer recovery.

Step 2. Install AnyRecover and open it to begin. From the menu, check the option “Recover from Crashed Computer”, then click the “Start” button.

select location crash computer recovery

You’ll get a message that says “create a bootable drive to recover data when Windows system is unable to launch”. Make sure that you’ve connected the USB drive or CD/DVD to the working computer successfully, then hit “Start” to continue the process.

Step 3. Select the media you want to create bootable drive from, then click “Create” to begin. Once you have selected the media that you want to create from, a reminder window will pop up, alerting that this operation will format USB drive. Make sure that you’ve backed up data before this operation, then click “Format”.

create bootable drive

crash computer recovery format

Step 4. When the formatting is completed, it will start to create bootable drive. Once the bootable drive is created successfully, then restart your computer which is without OS with the following steps: adjust BIOS to boot from USB flash drive or CD/DVD, connect USB flash drive or CD/DVD to your computer, then restart your computer.

bootable usb drive created successfully

Step 5. Your computer will become bootable again, then you can open AnyRecover again. This time select the hard drive you want to recover data from, and click “Start”.

select location hard drive

Step 6. Finally, when the scan is complete, preview the data and select the files that you want to recover. Click “Recover”, choose a safe storage location, and the process is done!

scan complete

scanned files preview

In just a few short and easy steps, AnyRecover can successfully recover data that you would have otherwise thought was permanently deleted.

Tip: Avoid Data Loss When OS is Damaged

Before wrapping up this article, here are some tips to help users avoid data loss in the future:

  1. Take regular backups of sensitive or important files.

  2. Store backups on an external hard drive or cloud storage for extra safety.

  3. Have data recovery software readily available in case a file is lost or accidentally deleted.


Having corrupted files is one thing, but having a hard drive that doesn’t let you access any of the files is much more distressing. These solutions are the best ways to access hard drive data without OS. Of all these, ideally, you should use AnyRecover. This is a tool that makes data recovery seamless and retrieves the original data in perfect condition.

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By  Simon Marcus , to Hard Drive Recovery

Updated on Mar 27, 2020

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