I've managed to recover a fair number of files from my stepdaughter's failing hard disk. You might recall I used a program called dd_rescue to do a raw copy of the sectors of the failing hard drive to an image file on a larger USB hard disk. That was important because the old hard disk seemed to be getting progressively worse, as hard disks which have experienced a partial crash are wont to do.
There was good news and bad news regarding the copy. The good news was dd_rescue managed to copy about 33 GB from the 60 GB drive before encountering constant errors. The bad news is that left about 27 GB of data which hasn't yet been recovered.
Next, I used a handy (and free) program called PhotoRec to recover photos and a number of other data types from the partial image of her drive. All told, it found about 4000 jpg files large enough to be her pictures. Some of them probably come from a browser cache but a good deal of them are vacation photos which she'd be pretty upset to lose.
So far it's been at least a partial success. I'll post more if there are significant updates in the future.
By the way, let this be a reminder to you to go back up your data. Hard disks sometimes fail with no warning and not all drives fail gracefully enough to allow some data to be recovered.