Top 10 data loss disasters of 2006

The best of a remarkable bunch of data loss disasters have been compiled in an annual Top Ten list.

The (proud?) winner was the man who wrapped his damaged hard drive in a pair of smelly old socks. Other entries include the workers that managed to drop a notebook computer from a helicopter. And the person who left a banana on the top of his external hard drive which proceeded to seep its contents into the drive, ruining the circuitry.

Ontrack Data Recovery 's team of data recovery experts from all over the world helped compile the list. The data was retrieved from the devices in all cases mentioned.

Counting down, from 10 to first position, here is the complete list:

10 Helicopter hi-jinks
Employees of a global telecommunications company dropped a notebook computer while working from a helicopter in Monaco.

9 Wash the data away
On a flight from London to Warsaw, a passenger packed his notebook computer and toiletries in the same bag. Unfortunately, his shampoo leaked and flooded everything in the bag, including the notebook, causing the hard drive to fail.

8 Not a Jolly occasion
Comedian Dom Joly, presenter and co-creator of Trigger Happy TV, dropped his notebook computer, damaging a hard drive that held some 5,000 photos, 6,000 songs, half a book he was writing and all of his old newspaper columns.

7 Rescuing the research
A leading UK research university suffered a catastrophic data loss after a fire broke out in the computer science department on a weekend morning, damaging computer equipment with smoke and water from the fire department's efforts. Ontrack was called to the site to rescue 30 computers, and were able to recover more than a terabyte of data.

6 Beware of bananas
A customer left a banana on the top of his external hard drive. The banana proceeded to seep its contents into the drive, ruining the circuitry. The drive would no longer run, but the drive and circuit board could be repaired so the drive would spin long enough to recover his data. The banana, however, was lost forever.

5 Hard drive speed bump
It happens every year, but people continue to leave computers and hard drives in the path of moving vehicles. Recoveries this year included a notebook computer that was run over by a 'people mover' at the airport, and several external hard drives stuffed in a backpack that was backed over by a truck.

4 Ten times the charm
A man reformatted his hard drive not once, not twice, but 10 times before he realised there was some valuable information he needed recovered. Luckily for him, the data could be recovered.

3 Finding Nemo
A customer returned from the holiday of a lifetime in Barbados to discover that he couldn't access any of the snorkelling photos he took on his new 'waterproof' digital camera. It seems the camera wasn't as waterproof as advertised. Fortunately, all his prized tropical fish photos could be restored.

2 Squeaky drive gets the grease
A university professor heard a squeaking noise from the drive of his new desktop computer. To solve the annoying problem, he opened the case and sprayed the inside of the drive with WD-40. Although successful in stopping the drive from squeaking, his actions also prevented the drive from booting up.

And finally, the number one most remarkable data disaster of 2006 is...

1 Sock it to me
Although the circumstances of the original data loss were unremarkable, the problem was intensified when a customer shipped his drive to Ontrack in a pair of dirty socks. The old socks didn't provide the necessary protection during shipping and the resulting damage made the recovery more difficult. Next time, we hope he sticks to bubble wrap...