Puppy Linux 3.01 to the rescue
Seriously, this is the best tool to 1) see if the hardware is working properly and 2) recover data. Simply boot from the CD, answer a few questions and you are at the desktop. Plug your external hard drive in, locate the files to be rescued on the internal hard drive and copy. How hard is that? If the windows OS is corrupt then open Gparted, reformat the HD (takes just a couple of minutes), shut down and reinstall the OS. It's true my customers get a factory fresh PC with updated malware control and I don't see them again BUT all their friends call me. How hard is that?
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