When I checked into the problem, I noticed that the hard drive was making a clicking noise. I hate to say it, generally when hard drives start making any noise, other then the typical quiet whine when it spins its bad news.
To see if I can figure out what was going wrong, I checked the SMART (hard drive diagnostic counters, and it was not showing anything wrong). I also tried booting from a live Linux CD to see what was happening and I was still having problems accessing the data on the drive.
So if your hard drive starts making any noises, the first thing you should do is backup any important data if the device will allow you. If you can't back it up and there is important data on it that you need, then you will have a send the drive to a data recovery service like DriveSavers.
Its important to note that any hard drive data recovery services are very expensive, so backing up your important data is basically cheap insurance against data lost. Any of these recovery services has a take a multi-step approach to pull data off the drive.
First they may try to use software that is specially designed to extract data from damaged drives. If the software doesn't work, they will try to repair the drive if possible or sometimes they will pull the platters out of the drive and put into another working drive.
Its also important to understand that this is a great deal more complex and time consuming then I am explain it.
More Information on S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology)
- CrystalDiskInfo - Can read the S.M.A.R.T. counters on your hard drive
- Wikipedia Article - Tells just about everything you need to know to understand the S.M.A.R.T. counters
- Failing Hard Drive Founds - If you want to possibly try to identify the type of sounds (e.g. heads, spindle, bearings, etc.) your hard drive is making. Find the drive manufacturer in the list, then press the play button to listen to the sound for that type of problem. You can also click the link to learn more about the different type of common problems these hard drives can experience.