Roughly two years ago and in preparation for the move back to the States, I bought an external hard drive (120 GB.) I was running WinXP at the time and had also just purchased Norton Ghost. My plan was to store a Norton image on the drive, bring the drive back to the US, and restore to new hardware so that I would have the same computer as I had been using 6,000 miles away.
After I returned to the US, I bought an HP desktop and swapped my WinXP image for the Vista OS that was on the box. I no longer needed the 120 GB external hard drive as a vault so I started using it as a briefcase and shuttled my music back and forth to work where I was (am) using a Macbook Pro.
I offloaded all of the content off the drive, reformatted it with Extended (HFS Plus,) and dumped everything back onto it.
Then, I discovered Ubuntu at home. I wiped my desktop clean of WinXP (all of my content was on the external hard drive of course,) and dropped Hardy Heron onto my desktop. I kept on saying "someday soon, I'll backup all of my digital content from the external hard drive to my desktop, but it's a pain to split it out now so I'll just keep it where it is" - on the external hard drive.
One day, back in November, I plugged in my digital briefcase and was horrified; the drive could not be read. I can't remember the exact error but I couldn't see the contents of the drive. I unplugged it, plugged it back in again, nothing. Tried again. Nothing. Tried it on different machines. Nothing. Tried running some diagnostics on it: no space left, no space being used.
Slowly it sank in; the drive was probably ... corrupt. All of my photos and music and documents and everything; all of my digital content - gone. Despair, to say the least. I started searching for a way to recover the data. I had heard that it was possible, even after catastrophes like unintentionally formatting a hard drive.
During my search, I found "data recovery services" and "data recovery software." Given the cost of data recovery services, which might run into the hundreds if not thousands of dollars, I tried a couple of different data recovery software options and have only one worth mentioning because it was the only one that (mostly) worked: Data Rescue II.
I say "mostly" because it was able to restore all of my content (I think,) but it couldn't restore their names, so now I have a bunch of DOC, PDF, MP3, and JPG files with unintelligible names like "J900x1200-03236.jpg." I'm happy to have the files back (especially my wedding photos - but I had those on CD anyway. Can you imagine what my wife would have done to me?)
I have to dig through thousands of files and recategorize them. I don't think I'll be able to rename them all, but at least if I can get them regrouped in some relevant manner, I'll be better off. I've learned my lesson. Now I use rsync to backup files offsite,