I have a computer that would intermittently freeze when it was left on idle, not doing anything for an extended amount of time. I marked the HDD dirty with a chkdsk -f to see if the disk had any problems and waited... The chkdsk froze multiple times when running, as the HDD I/O light would go permanently off. I restarted it 3 or 4 times upon which the OS would now not boot all the way to chkdsk. I suspected that it had corrupted some of the files so I put a copy of vista on a USB (CD drive is broken) and was intending to repair so I could at least get my files. However I am now met with a "Error loading operating system" when trying to boot off the USB. I have tried 2 different ISO's of windows vista, both of which will boot off my other computer.
So here are the questions I have:
1) What should I do now?
2) Do you think the HDD is starting to crash, if not, what is.
I have a computer on standby running fedora that I am prepared to recover the files with and wipe/get new disc
If you can burn CDs, make a bootable copy of a Linux OS and run it as a LiveCD. I use PCLinuxOS from http://www.pclinuxos.com but others wll work as well. Linux doesn't use the NTFS file system which in your case has fallen over, so it's often able to mount a disk Windows sees as unmountable.
The disk may be beyond use but at least you could recover your data. When you've done that, try to install the Linux OS - the laptop may have a future life without replacing the hard disk.