You use the word disks as in plural. Does that mean you can NOT boot to a bootable DVD or CD in addition to NOT booting off of the HDD.
If you can boot to aCD or DVD and Not to HDD then the HDD may have bit the dust.
To check, go into BIOS (Check manual) and verify first boot device is set to CD/DVD drive. Then two options:
1) barrow a copy of windows XP, Vista, win 7 does not matter. You just want to see if it will boot to it.
2) You can download UBCD and create a bootable CD that has many HDD utilities on it. http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/
Since your laptop is kapoot, need to use a desktop (maybe a friends) down load the Iso and using the cd/dvd buring program create a bootable CD.