The only post I found for a Crashed Hard Drive involved basically three methods:
1. Remove the drive and get the data off with another PC (assumes someone has those skills and a 2nd PC)
2. Use a data recovery tool - which can take awhile to either receive by mail or download.
3. Use an outside service (expensive)
This method was not listed and should be included. Its fast and free.
1. You do need a 2nd PC. You do not need to remove your drive from the first one.
2. You do need a USB Flash Drive. You do not need the original boot CD or any Windows key codes etc.
3. Visit a number of Linux web sites that provide live CD and live bootable USB Drives. These are usually small, fast to download and can often get to your data quickly. Many "data recovery" versions of Linux do not work or require large, long downloads. Most people in a crashed situation don't have that kind of time.
Here are a few to try:
A) Pocket Rocket Linux - small, fast, tight based on the Tiny Core Linux distribution but easier to use and can read Windows NTFS automatically so you can click - see data - start to copy in under 5 minutes.
B) Tiny Core Linux - probably the smallest of them all and can get to your data after you configure/load the NTFS-3g module (automatic with Pocket Rocket Linux)
C) Puppy Linux - a bit fatter than A or B, and does require some configuration to read Windows data.
D) Knoppix - much larger download than A, B or C, but well known, pretty reliable - usually downloads to a CD rather than a USB drive.
After choosing your bootable USB/CD Linux and getting your data back, the next thing to consider is whether or not to reload Windows (you need the Windows install/boot CD). Since the Linux distributions above can read all that data - and since Linux is basically virus free, you might want to consider just sticking with Linux. Pocket Rocket Linux and Tiny Core will both run 3 - 5 (up to 10 times) faster than your Windows ever did anyway...and can easily recover data later - over and over - if so required - fast and free - and free is a good thing.
Hope this helps...
From a software engineer: 30 years experience - owned the largest computer store - sales and service - in South Orange County, CA for 15 years.
Can you give me a link to download the Pocket Rocket Linux? I have a dead computer that I really need to get My Documents, My Music, My Pictures, My Videos, and the hidden App Data files off of. I had backed those all up a week before the hard drive crashed but there were a lot of changes during that week. And I would really like to retrieve the pictures of my very first great-grandchild.
However, I don't understand all this computer language when I look for the Pocket Rocket Linux you suggest. So if you can just give me a link to a place that says "Download" so that all I have to do is click on it I'll be happy to follow your steps to get my information back.