Royal V. from CT asks:
My computer seized up, and now it just shows a black page with white lettering. My problem: I had some very important papers (material for a future e-book) written in WordPad. Is there some way I can retrieve them?
Well, Royal, if you brought your computer to me for repair and asked this question, the first thing that I would ask in return is “When you say that it shows the black page with white lettering do you mean the Windows logo screen? Or is it giving you some kind of error message?”
If it gets stuck on the Windows logo screen, it probably means that your Windows installation has become corrupted, and there are a couple of things that I would recommend. The first would be to run error-checking on your hard drive, if you can get into your Windows “safe mode”. In order to access safe mode on your computer, you press F8 during your computer’s boot-up. That will bring up a screen that looks like this:
Safe mode allows Windows to run with all add-ons turned off, so that there is nothing interfering with it. This severely limits what you can do, but can also allow you to access your computer when all else fails.
Once safe mode boots up (and please be patient – this CAN take up to five minutes), open Computer, right-click on your system hard drive (usually C), and click Properties and then select the Tools tab. (These instructions are for Vista, but the steps are almost identical in all versions of Windows from XP forward.)
Click on Check Now (highlighted in red here) and you’ll be prompted to restart your computer.
If the disc check proceeds correctly, and your computer still freezes up on the logo screen, I would recommend trying to reinstall Windows. This should fix your problem, if it’s freezing up on the logo screen.
If it’s giving you some sort of error message, I would be interested in finding out what that error message is, but would be willing to bet that you’re dealing with a fatal hard drive error. This means that your hard drive has, through either age or damage, become unreadable by the computer.
If that’s the case, and you haven’t backed up recently (and I cannot overstress the importance of frequent backups), it is still POSSIBLE that you may be able to recover some or all of your data. I stress possible because with hard drive errors, data recovery is a crap shoot at best.
If you are savvy at removing your own hard drive, then you can do this yourself. You do this by removing your computer’s hard drive and then attaching it to a working computer using a SATA/IDE to USB adapter. Worldstart sells a couple of these, including this one which I have worked with and know works well: You can find it here.
If it is a laptop drive, then this adapter will be enough. If it is a desktop hard drive, you may need an additional adapter to power the drive. Once it’s connected, simply access the drive as an external hard drive and see what you can pull off of it.
If you’re not comfortable doing this kind of work, I’d recommend bringing it to a computer-savvy friend or computer repair center, and asking them to recover whatever data they can from the drive.
Hope that this helps.
~ Randal Schaffer