Accessing a hard drive without formatting

I have an HP G62 laptop running Windows 7 and am trying to load my boyfriend's old hard drive as an external hard drive (its a SATA hard drive if that helps). We hooked it up to the enclosure, but we do not want to format the hard drive and lose the files. Is there a way to access his hard drive without formatting it? We tried going through the computer management option, but could not access the files on it, only see that it is an Active Primary Partition. Is that the problem? If the fact that it is active is the problem, is there a way to make it not active?
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More about accessing hard drive formatting
  1. try to use it as administrator
  2. Sadly, the hard drive in question died a few days ago!
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