Most unusual data disaster horror stories for 2007

Trying to recover data can be a mission impossible

Ant-infested hard drives and failing parachutes top the list of data disaster horror stories for 2007.

The list provided by Ontrack Data Recovery illustrates some of the strangest and wackiest things that people put electronic storage devices through on a regular basis.

From putting drives in the washing machine to using oil to stop them from squeaking, these are just some of the stories nominated by the company's engineers.

This year the company has seen more damaged portable devices than ever before and has tackled an ever-widening range of recovery challenges.

There are the usual tales involving washing machines.

A woman called complaining she had 'washed all her data away'. Her USB stick had been through a cycle in her washing machine and unsurprisingly she couldn't retrieve any data from it.

A wedding photographer faced the potential wrath of a new bride when he discovered he had overwritten her photos with ones from another event. Two days before the couple returned from their honeymoon, he called Ontrack Data Recovery for help. Thankfully, the bride was none the wiser.

A scientist spilt acid on an external hard drive during an experiment. Thinking all the data had been burnt, he called in the experts, who were able to successfully recover the data on the drive.

A fire destroyed the majority of the contents of an office, only leaving a few CDs. The sticking point was they had melted to the inside of their cases, this was a unique job for the engineers but they succeeded.

This was another tough data recovery job. A British scientist was fed up with his hard drive squeaking, so he drilled a hole through the casing and poured oil into the mechanics. The squeaking stopped, and so did the hard drive.

Finally, in an effort to test the functionality of a parachute, a camera (acting as the cargo) was dropped from a plane. Unfortunately, the parachute failed its test and the fragile cargo shattered into several pieces. Ontrack was able to reassemble the camera's memory stick and the video of the parachute's demise was recovered.

But the best recovery of all has to be the ant invasion.

Discovering ants had taken up residence in his external hard drive, a photographer in Thailand took the cover off and sprayed the interior with insect repellent.

The ants didn't make it but engineers were able to retrieve the data.

The company's general manager, Adrian Briscoe, said staff are always fascinated by the extraordinary things people do to data that is often irreplaceable.

"We can often perform a successful recovery from what may seem to be a hopeless case - proving that you should never give up," he said.

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