My laptop is dead. Long live the laptop. (And, no. I did not kill it.) Luckily it's demise was slow, giving me ample time to make complete backups of all my documents, photos and videos. Phew. If your computer died and you were not so lucky, don't freak out yet. Your files can probably be retrieved by manually accessing the hard drive.
This is something a techie guru can handle. However, if you're pretty confident you know your way around a computer, you can attempt a DIY job. JoeTech provides groovy instructions on manual hard drive retrieval, along with tons of juicy color photos to guide you in your endeavor. Detail is the key word here; Joe's instructions are just so beautifully detailed.
Now, the laptop featured in Joe's post is a Sony Vaio, but I guess the guts of laptops are all pretty similar. Also interesting to note that Joe's previous laptop, a Dell, lasted for seven years before it bit the dust. Wow. That's three years longer than my old Dell. (And I thought four years of constant use was pretty good mileage!)
Finally: an important note. Realize that as soon as you open up your laptop for a DIY repair/retrieval operation, your warranty is void. Dead. As in deader than your laptop.