I recently received the following story from TechRepublic member Bob Eisenhardt (reisen55):

An IT tech from a job I had ages at Aon Group recommended a local customer to me. She was a single mother, divorced, living with parents and part-time employed. Genuine bad economic condition. Her computer had problems. Of course I went over and it was a fine, albeit slightly old HP Pavilion. Seemed normal enough but when I got it home, everything was shot. The video on her system was static electric vibration and so it was on my system and a new video card would not be recognized. Hmmmmm. The drive, a 250gb SATA Seagate was also dead. Nothing on it with Partition Magic at all. Took both over to a co-consultant who I work with and he smelled the inside of the HP and said DEAD, You can smell the burn. And so it was, electric shock fried the board and the drive too.

Bought another like-kind 250gb drive from ebay and it was also dead on arrival, swapping the circuit board did not help.

Out of the goodness of my heart, I built and gave her an old Dimension 2400 I had in stock (no loss, I have 8 more of them) and so she could get access to the internet and continue job hunt. Meanwhile, she was distraught – all of her pictures were gone, her resume, everything. And she had just bought a 1TB drive to back it all up too.

This is as bad as it can get. I have many customers who can suffer such a loss but THIS one was special. So I kept the drives and let them sit for a week.

Then a miracle. I am building a new 2008 Windows server using an existing Dell system I have and, for the fun of it, put the second Ebay drive into it to see if it would accept the new operating system. And it did, perfectly. No problems at all. So after pre-building it up, to replace my old 2003 server, I then put her totally dead burned up toast drive into the second bay. BIOS could not size the drive at all but under 2008 suddenly there appeared HP RECOVERY and HP PAVILLION partitions and under those ALL OF HER DATA!

HOW? I do not know, maybe 2008 was able to punch through a burned partition. But she is delighted beyond belief. All of her daughter’s pictures, everything.

Bob went on to compare this story to Ruth Krauss’ children’s book, The Carrot Seed. Just as in the book, Bob persisted and eventually his efforts yielded a harvest.

At this time of year, it’s also tempting to think of the miracles of the season. Oh, I’m sure there’s a perfectly good reason why the drive responded after sitting for a week. Perhaps it has something to do with the reason why freezing a bad drive can also help. But we don’t have to abandon a logically consistent view of reality in order to believe in miracles. The miracle isn’t that the laws of physics were somehow altered. The miracle is that Bob was able to retrieve his client’s data when she desperately needed it. And that wouldn’t have happened if Bob had just trashed the drive as a hopeless cause. It happened because he planted a seed of kindness, returned to tend it, and had the audacity to attempt the seemingly impossible.