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[tlug] Suse 10 file access without root?

I set up an HP desktop machine that a friend of a friend was going to
toss in the garbage (W-ME was broken and he thought the hardware was
broken...), so my friend took it and asked me to set it up for him.  I
tossed ME back in via the recovery disk that came with the machine (so
my friend could easily view DVDs with the machine and open files from
a certain vendor) and then made it a dual-boot machine with Suse-10.0.

My friend happily used it for two or three years, and then something
went wrong and he tossed the computer back my way, asking if I could
help him recover some work files he had on the machine.  I commented
that he should have had any important files backed up - he sheepishly

I accessed a few files (via Kubuntu 9.0 in run-from-CD-ROM mode) that
seem to have been saved on the desktop, but everything else I'm unable
to access.

I It looks like I could do something *if* he had remembered (I'm
embarrassed for him just to write this) the root password.

When attempting to boot, there are a long string of error messages.
What I can see now is:

ide: failed opcode was: unknown
Buffer I/O error on device hda3, logical block 198764

Another part says:

fsck failed.  Please repair manually and reboot....   etc.

Is there some way to back up his user files without knowing the root
password?  I have physical access to the machine.

Is the hard drive defective?  W-ME still boots.


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