re: hard drive crashing
I've recovered files from most all of my families crashed hard drives. The secret is to use a Knoppix boot disk, mount the failed disk, mount a USB external drive, then copy the data files over. If the machine merely doesn't boot, then the operating system is borked and the data files should be fine. If the drive is physically borked, then usually you can read a large percentage of the files, abeit copy rates will be slow (from the drie attempting to read & reread the sectors). If the surrounding machine is borked, then the drive just needs to be yanked and plugged into another machine. Unless it is an SSD (i.e. the drive is actually a bunch of volatile memory chips), odds are the data is still there.