Okay, this is getting freaky.
I mentioned over the weekend that an external hard drive (Western Digital My Book, 500 GB) just suddenly decided that it didn't have any of the files on it, even though it still had (and has) a big honkin' folder called "-- My Stuff" and the drive is still 3/4 full. I tried using it on both the desktop (XP SP2) and the laptop (Vista Home Premium, I think SP1), with various file recovery programs. Nada. Nothing at all.
So this morning I'm using one of my new externals (Maxtor 320 GB, only $65 at Target), and I'm copying some folders, and all of a sudden it stops and says the file isn't there. Even though the file is right the hell there. So I check on a few of the other folders on the same directory level, and they have nothing in them.
I unplug that HD, and plug in the other new one (Maxtor 1 TB, jayzus only $115, Target was having an orgasm of a sale). I'd copied the files to the smaller drive from this one. They're all there. I plug the smaller one back in. The files are back.
Something here is not right. And I think it points toward whatever is keeping the My Book from coughing up its files.
Each of these drives is connected to the computer by USB 2.0. One cable from the drive to an extender cable to reach the computer. It's possible that the extender cable is too old, I guess.
ETA: more info about the USB connection.
ETA2: Well, that was wonderful.
Getting a Ubuntu disk was a pretty easy process. With the My Book attached, I tried booting it on the Vista laptop, which is not a production computer. It froze up in the middle of booting. I shut it down; when it came up, it asked me if I wanted to boot Windows normally. I shut it down, started it up again, and determined that the laptop was supposed to boot from the DVD drive first.
Tried restarting again. What looked like a DOS-based screen I'm all too familiar with came up, the one that says one of your drives (the My Book, of course) needed to have its integrity checked yes/no yes one folder is unrecoverable convert folder(s) to file yes/no process complete and I said "WHAT? WHAT?"
So I don't know if it's XP, Vista, Ubuntu, or Western Digital that I currently hate more. I think WD, because their fucking hard drive has a fucking guarantee which doesn't actually cover getting back my fucking data. And I can get back nearly all of it, it's not a devastating crisis, but jayzus it's a frustrating waste of time.