My favorite tool is a notebook drive USB housing. I pull the drive from the dead notebook, put it into the new home and plug it into the new machine to copy files out.
As to the machine it sounds like repairs are needed.
Possibly relevant facts:
1. I rarely turn my laptop off; I tend to hibernate it.
2. Around 5 months ago I began toting it around frequently in my backpack
3. I have an Inspiron 1150 running XP Pro. It is around 3 years old.
Very Relevant facts:
Monday morning when I turned it on from hibernating, it started up and then suddenly blacked out with a click. There was a bit of stirring underneath (it sounded like it was the optical drive, though, weirdly enough.)
The only LED on the front was the power light.
I reset it and it started up OK and worked fine. I put it into hibernate again at the end of the day.
Today (Tuesday) the same exact thing happened. Again, I reset it and it worked fine. Then I put it into hibernate.
A few hours later I tried to turn it on again. It started up, but this time only got until the "enter password" screen before it blanked out. It did this twice more, and then refused to start up at all.
When I press the power button the fan starts and the power light goes on, but nothing shows on the screen. (The lights are on but nobody is home.)
Is this a hard drive failure? Is there any way to retrieve files at all?