Every couple years I get a new computer with a new hard drive and then just connect the original hard drive as the second one so I have access to all of my data in case I forgot to back something up.

This worked well with XP but with Vista, I recall this didn't work, there was some kind of security error when I tried to access the data on the drive from a fresh system.

So now I've got a computer with Vista running on a 250GB hard drive.

I regularly back up my most important data, but how can I be sure that if my computer suddenly crashes (currently having problems with my CPU/heatsink/fan), that I have access the data that is on the drive. Is there something I can do, e.g. create some backdoor password, so that I can access the data on this drive by plugging it into another computer as a slave drive?

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I used a Ubuntu Live CD to get access to the drive without too much trouble, you would need a secondary/external hard disk to copy your files to.

The only problem you could have is mounting NTFS disks in Ubuntu (don't ask me!) and getting access to password protected files, but as long as you don't stick important stuff in folders with Windows restricted access it shouldn't be a problem

Edit: NTFS support should be fine in Ubuntu these days

Anyone with more specific Live CD experients, go ahead an edit my post.

  • 1
    NTFS support should be fine in Ubuntu these days. – Peter Thorin Jul 16 '09 at 9:27

As long as it isn't the hard drive that crashes, you can swap it into another PC just fine as a slave and browse it regularly. However, it is always better to be safe and keep a second backup elsewhere of your data. An external hard drive is a great investment for things like this, you could even mirror your current setup onto a cheap internal disk and store it somewhere.

  • are you sure? I tried this and could not access the data, this worked on XP but not Vista (Home). there seemed to be some kind of file security on it (which makes sense to protect your data) – Edward Tanguay Jul 16 '09 at 6:43
  • Was it Fat32 or NTFS? Also, if you want to avoid filesystem quirks, try mounting the drive within linux from a LiveCD or something of the sort. It will bypass NTFS password protection and you can browse all the files perfectly. – John T Jul 16 '09 at 6:45
  • NTFS, ok thanks, I'll try my Ubuntu live Cd – Edward Tanguay Jul 16 '09 at 19:02

The security error you hit when putting your old drive in your Vista PC was probably due to NTFS access permissions. If the drive physically is in your computer though and you're an administrator you can override any permissions.

With the old drive inside your new computer

  1. right click on the old drive in Windows Explorer,
  2. then click Properties,
  3. Security,
  4. Advanced,
  5. Owner
  6. Edit (if Vista, not necessary for WinXP)
  7. Select your username,
  8. check "Replace owner on subcontainers and objects",
  9. then click OK,
  10. Click OK again,
  11. Click OK one last time.

You should then be able to access the files on the old drive.

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