i wanted to post here and ask -- has anybody else had this problem, and successfully recovered all the data?
i did some googling and found people with moderately similar issues but all of the stories had a bad ending and drives had to be formatted.
let me mention that the USB hard disk had two NTFS partitions. one partition was a boot which used to be inside a laptop that booted windows 7 x64.
anyway, i plugged it into my linux box to move a few folders from one volume to the other and got an error message on a few files, but i figured it must just be a problem with linux reading the file table, and the files were going to be deleted afterwards anyway so i didn't care.
when linux finished moving the files i plugged the HDD into my windows box and... windows told me i had to format both volumes. it could not read either of them. i managed to run chkdsk on one of them, it fixed a lot of file allocation errors, and then the drive showed up in windows explorer, except that quite a lot of files were missing. chkdsk could not even read the second volume, and this was a big problem.
fast forward to now and i'm half way through testdisk analyzing my drive cylinder by cylinder.
can linux do anything with NTFS file systems aside from reading them? i think i should have avoided doing what i did, however i was not aware of the consequences. the power of retrospect, eh?
for the record i'm running Mint 14 Cinnamon 32 bit and am quite a linux noob, only installed it about a week ago.
sorry about the long post, but thanks for everything.
i wish my first post was about better things but let's get on the road to some minty goodness.