Copyright Dr Alan Solomon, 1986-1995

Some you win, some you lose.  This one I lost, but it really wasn't my
fault, honest.

It sounded like a good juicy one - something to really get my teeth into.  
It was a Compaq 386, with one of their big hard disks, running under Novell.  
Novell don't use standard DOS files for their disk, and are proud of it, 
although I've always wondered why they don't offer DOS format as an option 
for nervous people like me.  Most of the DOS disk format is documented, and 
it's not too hard to reverse engineer the rest.  But the Novell format is 
not written down in any manual I've ever seen, and I suspect that it's a big 
secret.  So I'd better not tell you what it is. 

The proud owner of this superbox had not backed it up for three months -he 
told me that it only had his own development stuff on it, so he didn't 
bother.  I liked that.  I regard anything that I do as crucially important, 
and usually have at least two backups, with a third one off-site.  But this 
guy was so modest - I really liked that. 

Anyhow, one day the inevitable disk disaster happened.  From where I stand, 
a hard disk is just a major disaster waiting to happen.  They spin at 3600 
revolutions per minute, and there are only so many revolutions in each disk 
before it fails. 

He phoned me up, and asked if I could help.  I said maybe, in a confident 
tone of voice, and asked him to send the hardware around.  I could hear him 
look sheepish.  "I've sent it off to Compaq to look at, and they reckon it's 
impossible." "No problem", I said, "I always work no fix - no fee, and I'm 
happy to have a bash, even if Compaq can't do it." "I know that", he said.  
"The problem is, they've still got the disk." 

I made it clear that it was his problem to organise the retreival of his 
disk from Compaq, and he went off to arrange it.  Actually, I rather like it 
when someone like a manufacturer says that a data recovery can't be done.  
It means that the customer is properly appreciative if I do succeed. 

A week later, he phoned me again.  "Have you got the disk?", I asked. "Yes", 
he said, "but Compaq have reformatted it for me.  I suppose that's it." "Not 
necessarily", I said.  "Formatting doesn't always mean what you think it 
means.  I've recovered lots of data from formatted hard disks - fetch it 
round anyway." 

He turned up the next day, with a magnificent Compaq 386 in his car.  We 
unpacked it, and I opened it up.  I was just admiring the insides, when he 
suddenly said "You're not going to be able to do this one." "Hey", I said, 
"Let me decide that, please." "No", he said, "Not even you can do this one.  
They've replaced the disk." 

Alan Solomon