...After multiple formattings and especially if your friend has actually used the old hard drive to write data on, then even going to a professional recovery company is an extreme long shot. It's not the amount of time involved. It's the amount of over-writing/formatting that's taken place. It's up to you but I'd count the files as being unrecoverable.
As to backups, I've still got some old DVD's where I copied special pictures and documents to.. They're compact and store for quite a long time and you can keep that "special" stuff you might need sometime in the future.
Hope this helps.
Okay, so first a bit of background:
Several papers that I had written in college were saved as PDF files on my old computer (I prefer to save my finished word documents that way after I no longer need to edit them). I thought that I had the PDF files in backup, so I deleted them from my hard drive (turns out that they weren't ugh...). Then, five months later (during which time I used the laptop pretty regularly, though without defragmenting, if that helps), I ended up getting a new computer and reformatting the hard drive on the old one. I gave the old hard drive to a friend, so he could convert it into an external drive (he refurbishes computers in his spare time and was happy to have the extra drive to use for his work). It has been two years since that time.
Now, I'd like to get the old papers back, since I need to submit some past work for a portfolio. I'm curious if this is even possible now, some two and half years later? Should I even bother to ask my friend for the hard drive back and go about getting file recovery software? Or are the files probably long gone by now (or at least likely too corrupted to open)?
I'd prefer if someone would just give it to me straight, as I'd rather not invest in false hope at this point. I mean, if something is potentially possible, great, but if my chances are pretty much zero by now, I can accept that.
Thanks in advance!