I thought this was worth mentioning. Recently (as many know) I suffered from a laptop that became damaged. While I could have manually transferred all the stuff off of it as it was still partially functional, I actually just waited till I got a USB cable to pull the HD. For us as a lot of people, our laptop became full of family photos, videos, not to mention several data backups for the websites, and my MP3 collection.
I know alot of people take their computers to places like Best Buy where their Nerd Herd charge you unbelievable amounts of money to rescue data off of computers. (I joke not, I looked it up, and the Geek Squad can ask up to $1600.00 for recovery) Now I know in many instances things can damage data, but in my 20 years using computers, if the computer is well taken care of, generally the data on the HD way out survives the physical computer. I have a desktop which has a HD installed from 4 computers ago. It still has AOL 2.5 (before the Internet) and most of my college data on it.
So here it is for those of you who don't know. If your laptop goes bad, as in my case, where my child poured their drink on the keyboard, you simply flip it over, undo the hard-drive compartment and the 2 screws that hold the hard drive in. Slide it out of the IDE socket, and order one of these: IDE/SATA to USB cables. I got mine from EMT company. Their customer service was excellent, and the cable arrived in about 7 days. Plugged it right into the hard drive, and had complete access to my old Hard drive, and all the precious data. What would have taken me days of uploading 590megs of pictures took about 2 minutes to copy to its new home on the 250 gig hard drive on the new laptop. I can then burn them to DVD for further storage.