Abel has a friend who's 2007 Thinkpad has started acting up. The fan needed replacing, so he fixed it and now after rebooting, none of the passwords work. So he used some utilities from the Ultimate Boot CD to get into the administrator account. Leo says an administrator can take control of all the files and then back them up. He could also move the data to a new account that he creates. It looks like the desktop has changed its appearance and some files have disappeared.
One thing that Abel can do is run SpinRite. It's not cheap, but it will run through the hard drive and read all the sectors and get back some of that old data and move it to a more reliable sector of the hard drive.