Will not go past white screen w/ turning gear.

I've got a MacBook Pro that is stuck on a white screen w/ an apple on it w/ a spinning gear. I have left it doing so for over 2 hours and still nothing has happened. I have tried holding the shift key in order to boot to safe mode; once this is done, the grey bar loads but reverts back to white screen with apple on it and spinning gear. I have also tried holding down the Command+Option+P+R and it still will not get past the screen w/ apple and spinning gear. I have tried the Mac OS x Install DVD, gone to the disk utility and attempted to repair. I left this over night and returned to a still-3-hour-wait on the repair. I decided to then cancel it and noticed a "Burn Image" feature... I clicked to the Users folder and noticed my things were still there. I was going to attempt an Archive and Install but noticed that this disc (10.6 OS x) does not have an option for it that I am not seeing. How do I get my data off of this Mac? Is it possible to Archive and Install?

EDIT: Tried creating a "New Image" using Disk Utility and the error reads: "Unable to create Media Backup.dmg" (Cannot allocate memory)"

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What are the last 3 characters of your serial number so we can determine your exact machine?

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What history of this machine do you know, original owner, any resent hardware changes, just purchased it, ever seen it do more than this, been exposed to liquid, etc...?

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Last three characters of serial number are: 66E

No hardware changes.

Have owned for almost two years.

Not exposed to liquid.

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I would put a spare HDD in the unit and attempt to install OSX on the second HDD. You can more than likely use Migration assistant to get your data back after the install.

If you do not have a spare HDD you can pull yours and hook it up to a PC and run the manufacturers hardware test utility on it.

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Would an external harddrive be sufficient? Install the OS on there... but then would I still be able to see the other internal harddrive on the computer so that I could grab the files?

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If you have access to another Apple laptop hook them up with firewire. Start your laptop in target mode, that will make your laptop an external hard drive for the other laptop. Move your files over. Then with your system disk format your hard drive using the write zeros option. That will map out any bad sectors on your hard drive so they can't be used. Reinstall operating system move files back over.

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I do not have access to another Mac... other options? I really do not want to lose the info on my Mac...

Thanks in advance.

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The process would work the same way if you used an external formatted boot drive, option booted to chose the external drive, transferred files provided your original HD is not damaged beyond reading. . . it may be.

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Samantha will be eternally grateful.
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