Mac HDD recovery

Okay, time to begin the explanation of the overly complicated feeling issue!

Issue one: Gf owns a MAC
Issue two: her MAC will not successfully start, within this issue we have tested out re-seating the ram, putting in a HDD with a NON apple OS to see if we can produce an error. In each of these tests we got no reaction from the MacBook Pro other than system error beeps when both memory modules were removed.

Being that my gf is a professional photographer I have mounted the HDD onto a USB adapter and am attempting to salvage photos from a recent wedding along with half a decade of personal work.

First point being, I need some input on software "FREE" that can restore data even when there are present HDD errors. i am currently using VirtualLab with an ETA for completion of well over 200 hours out. The Hitachi drive that was pulled from the MAC Immediately came up with a error ( I:\ is not accessible. Data error (cyclic redundancy check). I instructed Virtual lab to ignore said error and resume attempting to identify the files on the HDD .

If anyone has some resources or input on a way to backup the Raw's and jpegs any and all constructive input would be appreciated.
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More about recovery
  1. I have had EXCELLENT luck (successfully recovered several non mountable HDDs) with ddrescue. Just boot into a ubuntu (or any other) linux livecd and follow instructions here: a damaged device, filesystem or drive
    (skip to ddrescue part)

    step 1 is always make an image first. Then recover files from the image.
  2. I know this may sound obvious but.... there wasn't a back-up?
    You did say she's a professional photographer, right?
  3. People should understand that hard disks can fail. A $100 external hard disk is a small price to pay to protect a computer that cost thousands.
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