This comes off a press release from Kroll (surely a crap 80's sci-fi flick? hang on that might be Krull...close though) Ontrack - who claim to specialise in data recovery - but I think there's some useful advice between the spin:
Avoiding these common blunders can increase the chance of successful data recovery in a data loss situation.
1. Test your backup – Following a data loss situation, the user decides they need to completely wipe their drive and restore all data using a backup. A complete reformat and reinstallation is performed, only for the user to realise the backup does not work. There is then little hope of retrieving the lost data. To avoid this error, individuals should test their backups by restoring data to an alternate location before assuming the backup is reliable
2. Mixing drives - When a non-working drive no longer spins, the user attempts to buy a similar drive and swap what he/she believes to be the non-working part with the new drive equivalent. As current hard drive parts contain drive-specific information, the new part is not programmed to “talk” to the drive’s original parts. In this situation, Kroll Ontrack recommends seeking recovery assistance from a reputable data recovery provider
3. Drive abuse – In this case, if the drive’s spinning cannot be detected the user believes the head of the drive is stuck. In an attempt to perform a “quick fix,” the user removes the drive and proceeds to shake it, or even worse, unscrews the case to take a look. Creating physical damage in this way could potentially render some data unrecoverable. While there are many reasons (electronic failure, power outage, etc.) why a hard drive head stops working, it is certain that shaking the drive won’t address any of these issues
4. Washed away - A hard drive is water logged in either a flood situation or from a spilt drink. Referencing a common data recovery myth, the user attempts to remedy the situation by using a hair dryer, further damaging the drive. In water damage scenarios, it is recommended that the drive remains in its wet condition and is sent in for recovery. This will maximise the chances of recovery success, as drying a drive only adheres the liquid to a greater extent
5. Be safe not sorry - The user implements an operating system failure programme such as CHKDSK, Mac Disk Utility or FSCK in order to remedy what is believed to be an operating error. If the drive is physically damaged and the user runs the programme, it will further damage the drive making recovery more difficult. In this case, the user should run the system failure programme in “safe mode.” By doing so, the programme is able to report on the condition of the system without actually attempting to fix it. The user can then decide how best to proceed