Well, I'm still not entirely sure WHAT happened to my hard drive. The drive was still there, but Windows wouldnt recognize it and said “Drive F: is not formatted, would you like to format it now?” uhhhh NO! I figured I'd give Knoppix a whirl, as I had read about it last week. I downloaded the torrent of it (686mb in about 60 mins) and burned the image to a CD, popped it in and booted up.
Knoppix came up and found all my hardware, even my USB drives that were plugged in. The only gripe I had with it at that point was that the resolution was low, 640x480 I think. I probably could have entered one of the “cheat codes” that comes with it to up the resolution on startup, but whatever, it worked.
The odd thing was that it found my hard drive at /dev/hdb1 and it showed the entire file structure and all the files... my biggest gripe of the day came when I found out that I couldn't write to an NTFS disk with it. Apparently there is a way to do it, and I googled around for a bit. You're supposed to click on the K, go to Knoppix, Utilities and there's a program called CaptiveNTFS that lets you read and write to an NTFS partition, but it wasnt there. I read something about Windows XP SP2 “breaking” captive NTFS with a new version of the NTOS kernel file, so I was pretty much dead in the water. I thought about doing it 1gb at a time with my USB drive but gave up on that after one revolution through that process. I thought maybe I could do it 4 times, burn a DVD, do it 4 more times, burn a DVD but if that was the case, I'd still be sitting there now with cobwebs in my ears trying to copy off all the data.
In the end I used the network to do it. Knoppix had enough Samba stuff built into it that I could connect to a share on my network and copy-and-paste the files over the network. I got a full 11mbps when I was copying from my Knoppix desktop to my XP laptop and then via USB2 to another hard drive (even though I have an entirely 802.11g network capable of 'theoretical' 54mbps throughput) and was getting 1MB/sec throughput. I turned off my wireless radio on my laptop and plugged it in via cat5 ethernet to theoretically get a max of 100mbps speed. I DID get 20mbps and 2MB/sec transfer rate, so I was content with that.
I managed to save all the TV shows I haven't watched yet, and all the data files I had stored on the drive as well. I sacrificed a few movies I had stored on the drive, my backup of my Mp3 library, my backup of my photo library and a bunch of other “assorted” video clips that I was storing there for network sharing purposes.
Once all that was done, I rebooted back into Windows and used disk manager to delete the partition and create and format a new partition on that HD. It seemed to work, and the disk is now a pristine, empty 155gb again, but I'm not sure that I trust it with 'critical' data. I don't know why it failed. The weird thing is that my previous Maxtor 160gb drive that was in this enclosure failed the same way, about a year ago. I'm wondering if maybe it's because we're approaching summer, and the tempurature in the apt is too high during the day when there's no A/C on and the computer is still running. I'll have to look around for some temperature monitoring software and run some tests on it to see if I can get a baseline on the temperature in my case during the day compared to at night.