First things first, I know that this issue has been discussed to death on the internet, so I'm not going to dispute these facts, but have a couple of questions nonetheless.
Here's the story. My old UK PlayStation 3 (original model) has died and I have no way to retrieve the save data left on the hard drive. Under normal circumstances, I guess I'd just give up and begin my games all over again. However, something occurred to me and I wanted to put it to the people here before doing something I might regret. I have access to a PlayStation 3 Test unit and was wondering whether it suffers the same hard-drive restrictions that a retail one does, that is to say, once the drive is removed then re-inserted, it will need to be formatted before it can be used. If this is indeed the case, then I guess I can happily give up on getting my saves back and move on. If, however, hot-swapping drives on such a unit is possible, I suppose extracting the necessary save-data files could also be done, right? If any knows the definitive answer to this, I'd very much like to hear from you.
As an auxiliary question, can anything be done with the hard drive of a dead PlayStation 3 via one of the custom firmware packages available nowadays? I also have access to a unit with CFW installed and thought that that could also be a good place to start. As above though, if it's not even remotely possible, I'll stop considering it as an option.
Last of all, and this is something I definitely don't have access to, but just out of curiosity would like to ask, is hard-drive swapping doable on a PlayStation 3 Reference Tool? I seem to recall that early units allowed for dual drives to be installed, but don't know the details.
Thanks in advance.