With something as important as "more than a year's worth of work", you surely saved a copy of those files to a DVD, or flash drive, or external drive.. Since we only lose what we don't back up, and hard drives don't last forever, you should have such a backup of those important files. Do you have such?
If you didn't make a backup of your important files, (some lessons are learned hard), have you tried doing a search on the computer for the file extension of the original files? It may be saved in a different location, possibly the "Temp" folders.
The message regarding "disk access failure" and the other symptoms you've mentioned are usually related to a failing hard drive. If you're currently unable to boot to Windows, or the files are worth a lot of time and money to you, the best option is to turn OFF the computer and take the hard drive to a hard drive recovery company.. The more times you add data to the drive, then more damage will be done to those files.
Hope this helps.
os is vista business
task manager was used to shut down explorer, which for some reason did not automatically restart
began getting an 'i/o error; disk access failure' message from peerblock, which is installed onto c drive
attempted to save a file in notepad++, seemed successful so i saved all of my work, some on c and some on an external hdd.
upon reboot, vista installed an update
all of the files i had saved after explorer was killed became zer0 size files, even the ones on the external hdd ... only the files i had saved were affected
could not find the original files using a file system check, easus data recovery or recuva.
i'm not sure exactly what happened ...
the last time i used my pc, explorer was acting really slowly, so i called up the task manager and shut down explorer, expecting vista to restart it automatically ... oddly, that did not happen. following that, peerblock began intermittently giving some message about an 'i/o error; disk access failure', which is troubling because it is installed onto c drive ... i started panicking because i'd typed up quite a bit that i hadn't saved and, fearing the worst, i attempted to save a new file in notepad++. it seemed sucessful, so i then continued to save all of my work in progress and rebooted.
upon reboot, vista immediately began installing an update. when that finished, i attempted to resume my work and found that all of the files i had just saved had been overwritten into zero size files. some of these files represented more than a year's worth of work.
a file system check did not restore the files, so i tried easus data recovery and recuva and found that neither were able to locate the previous versions of these files.
is there any program or tool that can restore the files i just lost?
EDIT: hd tune reports 0.0% damaged blocks