[ubuntu] Boot hanging at initramfs

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http://ubuntuforums.org – I have virtually no experience with Ubuntu! A customer has asked me to recover his data (created in Ubuntu). This on a Toshiba laptop with Win Vista dual boot. Whenever the option to boot to Ubuntu is taken then it hangs at "initranfs" and goes no further. The machine will boot into Vista safemode but is horrendously slow in normal Vista; this because of a recent power-out and overheating due to cooling fan failure (now rectified). As a complete Ubuntu ignoramus, what I need advice on is:how can I access the files from Vista? Is it possible to cure the boot-hang at initramfs? (Hardware)