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Data-recovery firm reveals top client mishaps

Ant infestations, failed parachute jumps were behind some of the unusual data-recovery jobs faced by computer forensics specialist in 2007.

Ant infestations, oil saturation, and failed parachute jumps are some of the unusual fates that have befallen innocent data-storage devices recently, according to data-recovery company Kroll Ontrack's list of the most unusual recovery jobs it has faced in the last year.

This year the company has seen more damaged portable devices than ever before. Strange ways of damaging hardware in the company's top 10 countdown this year include:

• A customer who told engineers she had "washed away all her data" after putting a USB stick through a cycle in her washing machine.

• A father who, while feeding his baby daughter, forgot about the USB stick in his top pocket. As he leaned over her high chair, the device fell into a dish of apple puree.

• A fisherman took his laptop in his rowboat. Both he and the laptop went overboard, taking all his data to the bottom of a lake.

• One wedding photographer overwrote the photos of one wedding with those of another event, and needed to escape the wrath of the newlyweds.

• During an experiment, a scientist spilled acid on an external hard drive, burning away his important data.

• In the middle of an argument, a businessman threw a USB stick at his partner, with the device ending up in several pieces on the floor. Unfortunately it contained valuable company plans.

• A fire destroyed an office, sparing only a few CDs which had melted to the inside of their cases.

• A scientist was fed up with his hard drive squeaking, so he drilled a hole through the casing and poured in oil, stopping both the squeaking and the hard drive.

• To test the functionality of a parachute, a camera was dropped from a plane. The parachute failed and the camera shattered into several pieces, but the device's memory stick was reassembled and the footage was recovered.

• After discovering ants had taken up residence in his external hard drive, a photographer took the cover off and sprayed the interior with insect repellent. The ants were killed off and the data was eventually recovered.

All the data on the compromised hardware was recovered, the company said.

Gemma Simpson of reported from London.