If your computer doesn't work any more and there are important files on the hard drive that you want to recover, then Selkie Rescue Data Recovery is probably going to be the solution. It's a special boot CD that lets you start the broken PC, plus a Rescue Center that helps you transfer the files you need to a safe place.
Selkie Rescue is ideal if you decide to replace the broken PC with a new one, or if you need to recover files before reinstalling Windows. However, you do need two computers and they must be connected using cables, either in a regular wired network using a router or hub, or directly using a PC-to-PC crossover cable.
The PC containing your data requires a CD drive and must be working well enough to be able to boot from it. It will also need a working display so that you can see what you are doing, and can set up the BIOS to allow booting from CD if necessary.
After you install Selkie Rescue on the working PC a program will run that will create the rescue CD. You will need a blank CD-R disc and a CD burner. Should the Selkie burner not be compatible with your PC's drive, you can burn the CD yourself using your own CD burning software. The ISO image of the rescue CD is in the Selkie Rescue folder.
When you have made the rescue CD you put it in the CD drive of the broken computer and restart it. The rescue CD makes your broken PC into a file server from which you can copy off your important files.
The rescue CD is Linux based and has a text-mode display, but don't let that worry you. In most cases, you can just select the Basic set-up option. If the rescue CD software doesn't detect your network or any other computers then you may need to use the Advanced option to choose specific settings. The help provided with this product is absolutely top class, and the developers provide prompt support if you still have problems.
Back on the working computer you simply run the Selkie Rescue Center client software and click Start Rescuing Files. If all is well the client will detect the server and display a folder tree of the hard drive. The software supports multiple partitions and multiple drives and, thanks to the server being Linux based, it can even recover files from Linux partitions! The client, however, requires Windows. (If the only spare PC you have is old then don't worry, it even works on Windows 98!)
Recovering the files and folders you want is simply a matter of selecting them with the mouse, then clicking Next. The files will then be copied to a folder on the client PC, from where they can easily be moved to their desired location using Windows Explorer.
Data files become lost or inaccessible for many different reasons. Selkie Rescue will not recover files that have been deleted or lost because a hard drive was formatted or the file system has become corrupted. If your computer still boots up but you can't see the files that you need in Windows Explorer, you should try a different product such as Uneraser or Partition Recovery. But if the files were on your computer before it broke, the chances are that Selkie Rescue Data Recovery can rescue them.