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My laptop recently died: probably a power supply fault. I'd backed up all my data to an external (USB) hard drive, but failed to notice that several large folders were encrypted. I normally make a separate backup onto DVD, but the folders were too large.

I now need to access the files in these folders fairly urgently. Nothing will open from my backup, but as far as I can tell, the original hard drive is intact. Can I install this drive in a compatible laptop and read my files directly? Or must I use the original machine? Is it possible to clone the data from this drive onto an external hard drive and use this instead of the original hard drive? I don't want to risk overwriting any of the original data. Failing this, would it be possible to recover the relevant encryption codes from such a copy?

Otherwise, is there any way I can get sight of the text files without actually recovering them? I'd even be prepared to retype entire documents if I knew what was in there.

My machine is a Dell Inspiron 5150 running Windows XP Professional.

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How were the folders encrypted? Did you use built-in encryption or something like TrueCrypt? Any chance of recovering or remembering the key? – atroon Jan 19 '11 at 1:28

I'd recommend purchasing a USB SATA/IDE adapter so you can read your files on the drive from another machine. These can be purchased from most computer stores for around $20 and are great to have lying around when you're in a situation like this.

If you are afraid of overwriting things, I would copy the documents you want to look at from the drive to your local system before opening them.

Installing the drive on a different laptop is a long shot but it's worth a try. Driver incompatibilities usually cause a blue screen before allowing you to log in.

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