Signs Of Life
If you can hear your hard drive spinning when you power up your system, your first course of action should be an attempt to boot from another source. If you have access to another computer, attaching your hard drive, either as a 'slave' through the IDE connection, or through a USB cradle or docking station should provide access to the hard drive's contents once the system boots up.
When you can access another PC, but connecting your hard drive to it is not an option, you can create a bootable CD using Ultimate Boot CD for Windows or a LiveCD version of Linux, such as Knoppix or PuppyLinux. Additionally, your hard drive manufacturer may offer downloadable utilities that can assist with recovering your data. For example, Seagate offers SeaTools for DOS, which tests ATA or SATA hard drives from a bootable floppy or CD-ROM.
If certain files are missing when you examine your crashed hard drive, you can try free data recovery software from Easus. This freeware can potentially recover your lost files.
In some cases, a loose or faulty IDE cable may be the cause of your hard drive crash. Reconnecting or replacing the cable may be all that is necessary, in which case you won't need to consider the issue of how to recover the data.