Over the years, hard disks have gotten a lot quieter and faster, with capacities of up to 400 GB. The downside is that their reliability is far from perfect, and the devices are often fraught with mechanical failures - of course, this caveat is not mentioned in the vendors' product specifications.
Experience shows that users can be divided into two groups. The first group of users is well informed or has already experienced the pain of losing data. In cases such as these, the user is careful to back up information such as emails, photos, work files or similar data on a DVD or other media, at least on an irregular basis. In business settings, the IT department or an administrator is the one who takes care of backups. Digital assets are thus protected should a virus attack, hardware failure or simply human error destroy a hard drive. However, this group is a small minority.
The other group lives with a permanent risk, either because they aren't aware of the possible horror scenario or, as is often the case, they don't take it seriously enough. Generally speaking, it should be clear to everyone that any complex component could from one day to the next fail to provide its services. If such a scenario were to occur, then all the data stored exclusively on a hard disk would most likely be unrecoverable. Or not?
As is true so often in life, there are second chances. For example, if the hard disk's electronic system is the only thing that is defective, then the drive can still be saved by way of a replacement. Even if the dreaded head crash does occur, i.e., at the contact point between the heads and the magnetic surface, then it often only involves a small area on the hard disk. A defective read/write head usually means that a significant amount of data can be recovered - but believe us when we say the cost is steep.
So when the nightmare happens and your hard drive is clearly physically damaged, you pick up the phone and call firms like CBL Data Recovery or Ontrack, which have the requisite equipment and lab infrastructure to do the necessary job. When one of our editor's laptop hard disk crashed, we put his precious data in the hands of CBL Data Recovery in Kaiserslautern, Germany. With a defective read/write head, he was understandably very worried that he would never again recover his family photos and other personal files on his busted 2.5" hard drive.