The message is symptomatic of a flawed hard disk but it can also pop up if the CD ROM is first in the boot list but the re is no bootable disk in the drive. Take any CDs out and see if you get the same message. If you do, the hard drive may have a problem which doesn't necessarily mean you've lost files - they may still be recoverable.
If you have another computer (the one you posted from) you could buy a converter and slave the laptop's hard disk into your system to run Checkdisk which might fix disk errors if they aren't too serious. Post back if you need more details.