Had a bit of trouble today: one of Vickie's two-gig thumb drives went catatonic. All Windows could come up with was the scary message that the disk in drive E wasn't formatted, and did she want to format it now? (Answer: nooooooo!) After a bit of investigation--the usual stuff: reboot, pray, try it on several machines, sacrifice a chicken--we came to the conclusion that the thing's file system had broken.
So, armed with foggy memories of how Norton Utilities used to work, off I went into the wilds of the Net, searching for recovery advice. Mostly I found questionable stuff; there are many operators out there who will charge you hundreds of dollars to take a crack at your data with no guarantees, and there are plenty of freeware/shareware downloads that claim to recover lost files but were last updated in 1997, and have since been turned into those $49.95 bloatware packages you see at Office Depot. Most of these are about hard drives or floppy disks, not memory sticks; I tried a half-dozen, but got nothing back from Vickie's poor dead baby.
Finally I found Christophe Grenier's TestDisk/PhotoRec suite, at http://cgsecurity.org. PhotoRec ignores the file system in favor of finding lost files, so it works on FAT, NTFS, EXT2/EXT3, HFS, and (with certain caveats) ReiserFS. And since it's looking for known file headers and using data carving techniques, more than eighty file types--among them DOC, PDF, and PPT--are instantly recoverable. Here's how it went:
/dev/sdb--and hit Enter to continue.
Intel, since the last time the thing had run successfully was on a Windows machine. (I'm guessing this would want to be set to Macintosh if one was attempting recovery from a Mac-formatted iPod.)
Other, the highlighted default.
Many thanks, Christophe; you ought to be receiving one of your US Amazon wish-list items from us shortly.