Enquiry: My Hard Drive recently packed in. It was running ok the night before (although in retrospect after being asked about it, I'd heard it click a couple of times), but when I booted it up I kept getting an error message saying windows couldn't be found.
So on boot up I went to the BIOS menu to see if something had reordered the drives and discovered the hard drive couldn't be read. I then took it to a repair shop and they attempted to diagnose the problem (it was them who asked about the clicking). They left it over night for a diagnostic and said that on a couple of occasions the Hard Drive was picked up but the only info they could get off it was garbled nonsense. They said that they thought that the heads may have failed on the Hard Drive and that wasn't something they could fix and recommended someone else. The 2nd person came to the same conclusion and said he didn't want to tamper with the heads either as it wasn't something he could fix and so he recommended you.
My Response: What you have described there is a hard drive that is about to completely fail. It probably didn't help that the first repair shop you took it to kept it switched on last night. If a hard drive is running hot and slowly then my recommendation is to switch the hard drive quickly and wait a while for it to cool down - don't put it in a fridge or freezer and this will put unnecessary stress on the hard drive, instead let is cool naturally.
When it's completely cooled you can attach it again and attempt to copy your files off of it asap. If you are successful at this then you've had a lucky escape. If the hard drive begins to run slowly or is not recognised then I'm afraid it's too late for you to do anything - the hard drive is already badly damaged. If you need to remove the data from it you'll need to contact a data recovery company.
Finding a Data Recovery Company
You can look for a local data recovery company but my experience is that good data recovery companies a few and far between. Make a distinction between a data recovery specialist and a PC repair shop. They are not the same beast at all. Even though the shop may claim to perform data recovery, it's capabilities will be no where approaching what the data recovery company can do. The best way I've found is to do a countrywide internet search and then look at the reviews of the company. Another useful method is to look for bloggers who write about data recovery and hard drive issues - if you are in the UK you can visit the Recover Deleted Data web site. It deals in answering questions about all types of data recovery, not just retrieving deleted data.