"DISK READ ERROR. Press Ctrl+Alt+Del."
Something was seriously wrong with the computer, CBS Sunday Morning contributor David Pogue recounts.
Now, I'm not the first person on Earth to experience a total hard drive meltdown. It happens to thousands of people, every day. It happened to the computer manager for the Minnesota Twins, John Avenson.
"It started squealing like a pig. Unfortunately, once you hear that clicking noise, it's pretty much done for," Avenson says.
It happened to a writer for "The Simpsons," Bill Oakley.
"I couldn't begin to remember what was on there, I just knew everything was on there," Oakley recalls.
And it happened to Gene Rupp, a consultant who designs industrial equipment on his computer at home.
"It said, 'Hard drive not found' and then I started listening to my computer and it's like, I hear a little noise, it's not like a transmission going out on a tractor or something," Rupp says.
Of course, I'm not some amateur. I'm a professional technology journalist. I have experience. I have tools. I have -- exactly the same problem.
I was desperate. And when you're desperate, there is a last resort for people who absolutely, positively have to get their computer files back.
It's called a data-recovery company. It's a service as specialized and high-tech as a hospital and almost as expensive. But they boast a 90 percent success rate in recovering files from dead drives.
Kelly Chessen used be a counselor for a suicide hotline. But at DriveSavers, her job is to calm down customers who have lost their cool along with their data.