How can I get text & doc files to show up readable ?

After my computer froze recently (with an external drive still open), I had to turn everything off by holding the power key (I have a Compaq Presario SR1150NX). I am using Win XP.
When I rebooted, everything worked fine except the text and doc files located in a folder on the external drive. They all show up. They all have a file size but when they open, I either get a blank page or a page with what I will call "gobblygook".
I've tried opening the files with Word, with Open Office etc but the results are the same.
I've tried moving the files to other computers but the results are the same.
I also ran a chkdsk on the external drive but nothing changed.
Any ideas on how I can restore the text in the files ?

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Time for experts I fear. might help.

But where is the backup copy? That is, if we can't lose files, shouldn't we keep a spare copy in a maybe a few extra places?
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thanks for responding...

Bob, the files in question aren't that important (certainly not worth paying for) so I never bothered to copy them.
Since they're still taking up space on the external hard drive, I figured perhaps there might be a way to restore them great loss if I can't (unlike family pics etc).

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Have you tried the titles noted in the Cnet forums?
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will try recuva asap

Bob, sorry I haven't responded sooner as I've been on the road a lot. Actually I'm going to be away from my home computer (where the problem files are) for most of this month but I will try Recuva at the earliest opportunity.
As an computer user with medium knowledge, I want to say how much I appreciate your help.

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