I have an original launch PS3 that seems to break down a lot despite the minimal use it gets. The last time it crashed, I decided not to get it fixed again. It know has a 500gb HDD in it that I would like to use in a new PS3. I was told that you can't simply change out the hard drive. How can I get my old data to the new PS3 without getting the system fixed again?
It is true that you cannot switch them, the hard drive is encoded to the individual PS3 system and so is any full backup you may have done. You have to use the system transfer or manually back up whatever you can to a USB drive, both of which require the current system to be functioning. Some game saves don't allow you to back them up (Assassins Creed comes to mind...) but I think you can back those up using PS+ cloudsaving. An interesting note which may not be useful to you is that you can have multiple hard drives set up for the same machine and switch back and forth between them without issue.