Had a couple of pals with Dell PCs phone me in the last week, with what appear to be failed hard drives.
What concerns me a bit is that the discount deal they bought the machines from Dell on only includes 90 days warranty support, after which they have to pay for extra support, either on a per-event or a standard subscription basis.
Fortunately for the people concerned, I supplied them both with a utility called MiniPE-XT.
The utility - which I'm seriously in awe of - allows XP-based PC users to boot from CD/DVD drive and offers users a number of very powerful utilities.
I don't recomment MiniPE-XT for PC novices as - in the words of one my industry pals - "it can turn a recoverable situation into an irrecoverable one."
The utility is basically a high-powered disk doctor for Windows XP and allows all manner of facilities, but its most basic function is to get a dead drive-based PC back up and running from the CD/DVD drive.
After that, your first step should be back up your critical data and then - only then - should you try to resurrect the machine...