Look up bootable LIVE CDs like Ubuntu.com so you can boot from the CD/DVD drive and see if the live cd sees the old HDD.

For almost a decade machines have us create the restore media. My conclusion is that folk can't be bothered to create them so it's an extra 35 bucks on average when the HDD fails.

New HDD is about 50 so 85 bucks to fix this?
Bob