Apple's DiskUtility warned of a S.M.A.R.T. diagonistic failure indicating a hardware failure and could not repair it. My usual disk utility program, DiskWarrior, could also not scan the disk because of the hardware failure. I thought I was @(*@*@.....
I had thought that my only remaining option was DriveSavers in California. They gave me an online estimate of $2000 to recover the missing data. Yes, two big ones. They'd take the drive into a clean room and read the data off the raw platters just like the latest episode of CSI New York.
I had almost packed the computer away to send to them when I tried an absolutely new program that's on the market called VirtualLab. It's for both the PC and Mac. Unlike Norton or DiskWarrior, the neat thing about it is that it works with a data analysis server over the internet. Also, you don't buy the program but you buy blocks of data recovery. I needed about 8 gigabytes recovered, which cost me about $140.*
* The program does have some negatives. You have to guesstimate ahead of time how much data you want to recover. If you guess wrong, they charge you more if you want to bump it up later. And if I wanted to recover another drive in the future, it'd cost me over a $100 again. This is aggravating. They should charge either a flat rate or a simple scaled rate and not penalize customers who are bad at math.
The program works fantastic. You do need some way to boot it up separate from the broken drive, I bought an external firewire harddrive (300 gigs for Y30,000) which is now serving as my backup drive. I loaded MacOS X 10.3 on it, then launched VirtualLab. Unlike Norton, DiskUtility, or DiskWarrior, the Virtuallab software was able to workaround the hardware failure (somehow, I'm not sure).
I recovered all of my data. Phew.
I can't praise VirtualLab enough. Give it a try. It's expensive, but a great last resort. They note that it can also be used to recover accidentally formatted or repartitioned drives too. I'll give a report on how Apple Japan fixes my PowerBook later on.
Fine print: Like all of the reviews on my site, I of course received nothing from BinaryBiz for recommending them. I am entirely vendor kickback free.