Most unusual data disaster horror stories for 2007

A man in Thailand took the cover of his hard drive off and sprayed the interior with insect repellent

An ant-infested hard drive and a failing parachute top a list of data disaster horror stories for 2007.

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

Putting drives in the washing machine. Using oil to stop them from squeaking. These are just two examples of the user bloopers the company's engineers nominated for inclusion on the list. Remarkably, Kroll data recovery specialists were able to recover the data in both instances.

This year, Kroll's engineers said the company has seen more damaged portable devices than ever before.

One woman called to complain that she had "washed all her data away." Her USB stick had been through a cycle in her washing machine and -- surprise! -- she couldn't retrieve any data from it.

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

A wedding photographer faced the potential wrath of a new bride when he discovered he had overwritten her photos with ones from another event, the photos were recovered before the couple learned of the mistake.

In an effort to test a parachute, a camera (acting as the chute's cargo) was dropped from a plane. Unfortunately, the parachute failed its test and its fragile cargo shattered into several pieces. Ontrack's engineers had 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 his computer and sprayed the interior with insect repellent.

The ants didn't make it, and neither did the drive.

Adrian Briscoe, general manager of Kroll's Ontrack Data Recovery Australia unit, said the company's staffers 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.

This story, "Most unusual data disaster horror stories for 2007" was originally published by Computerworld Australia.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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