So I have a cousin who just bought his girlfriend a laptop. Well I guess he had the laptop for a couple weeks when someone gave him a.. well... not so legal copy of Windows and told him that it had everything he needed on it (Office etc). He figured it'd be pretty simple to get it installed and everything..
I got a call from him basically saying that the laptop would no longer boot, and he had installed Windows 3 times and now he just gets a blue screen. He asked if I could take a look at it for him. Well he bought it from HP so it had an XP Home edition license sticker on the bottom so I don't ask me why he was installing this other copy of XP. I figured it'd be pretty easy. I have a little USB adapter that I can plug into laptop hard drives that have the standard pin setup. We'll he brought it over and I took the drive out and it was some other different configuration (go go standards) so my little USB conversion wouldn't work. I needed to get the data he had on there off (didn't want to loose their files etc). I coulda installed Windows on an external drive and then booted from that to get to the files on the drive, but that'd take too long. Then I remembered my good ol' days of tinker-ing with BSD's and Linux and downloaded a Linux 'Live' distro (you know.. the ones that boot completely off of a cd). I decided upon using Ubunto because it's been getting a lot of rave lately. So I popped it in, booted up, and the only thing I had to do was get Nautilus running with super user rights to access the NTFS file system. The rest was down hill. I copied everything over and formatted the drive. Then I installed his original copy of Windows using the license that was issued to the laptop and he was on his way. So the next time I need to get data off of a non-bootable computer that I can't easily just take the HD out and plug it into a functioning computer I'll remember the little trick I did this time.