|"...it will not boot at all even from o/s disk"|
"The laptop will boot to the 'Acer' screen and I can get to the BIOS no problem by pressing F2, it just won't load Windows."
If you can get into the bios, the computer IS booting fine - it's just not presently loading the operating system on the hard drive.
In order for you to be able to boot from a bootable operating system disk, the Boot Order or similar settings in the bios must be set so a CD drive or similar is listed before any hard drive. When that is set correctly, you will see a line while booting "Press any key to boot from CD" or similar - you must press the key while that line is displayed - you usually have 5 seconds to do that.
There should normally be no network boot listing before a hard drive in that list.
See Response 1:
OR - with most laptops, you can press a certain key while booting when a line regarding that is on the screen to choose one device in a list to boot from, even when the boot order settings are not correct.
"Is there anyway I can run a diagnostic on the HD without removing it from the laptop and connecting it as a slave to my PC?"
Yes, but you must make, on another computer, and be be able to boot from, a bootable diagnostics CD.
Seagate's Seatools will test any brand of hard drive.
Do the long test.
If the hard drive itself tests okay, any data problems found can be fixed, one way or another.
By the way, the bootable version of Seatools can't test hard drives when they're installed in an external enclosure, but the version you install in Windows can.
NOTE that when you DO boot from an operating system disk, it may NOT find SATA drives at all, unless
- the mboard's bios has the SATA controllers in an IDE compatible mode, rather than a SATA mode.
- or - you load drivers for the SATA controllers for the mboard while loading files from the OS disk.
XP and 2000 CDs certainly don't have SATA controller drivers built in. I'm not sure whether that applies to Vista and Windows 7 DVDs.