I guess I was overdue for doing something monumentally stupid and sloppy, because Friday night I went to format an external 1TB hard drive and accidentally formatted my internal one instead -- the one with Windows on it.
Now, after a moment's panic, I realized that I didn't have anything vital and irreplaceable on there -- I had backups of my resume, my password wallet, things like that. I hadn't backed up my financial spreadsheets or work search log in a couple weeks, but I could reconstruct those if I absolutely had to from my bank statements and E-Mails. And I had a Mass Effect 2 save that was maybe an hour farther along than my backup.
So, nothing life-or-death. But I'd still just as soon not have to take the time to reinstall Win7, reinstall Win8, reconstruct my spreadsheets, and replay that last hour of ME2 if I could avoid it. And I knew it was just a quick format, so my data should all still be intact on the drive -- it was just a matter of getting to it.
I was booted to OSX at the time, and the first piece of recovery software I found was EaseUS. It was a free trial for a $90 piece of software. Now, I knew going in that there was no way my lost data was worth $90 to me, but I figured I'd see how far I'd get with it.
Not fucking very.
You'd think a trial for a $90 piece of software would be designed to make you think the software was worth $90. Instead the fucker just kept hanging -- I might, might get as far as it displaying all my disks and partitions, but after that (or, just as frequently, before that) it would just lock up, static unresponsive window, Spinning Beach Ball of Death, all that shit.
So then I stumbled upon TestDisk. I missed the part where it said there was an OSX version, so I rebooted to Linux to see if I could install it.
And found that my OpenSUSE boot had somehow become hosed too. (I would later find out that this was not a coincidence and that OpenSUSE actually goes into Emergency Boot Mode if it fails to load a filesystem in its fstab. I did not consider this at the time because (1) I was very tired and (2) Linux failing to boot because it can't mount a Windows drive is the stupidest fucking thing I have ever heard.)
But fortunately I still have my old Kubuntu drive onhand, and it was not only able to boot, but it already had TestDisk installed, with no worrying about having to fuck with repos. I think it may even be part of the basic Ubuntu installation.
Now, there's a lovely step-by-step guide at the TestDisk site called Recovery of Reformatted Partition.
The bad news: I spent yesterday trying to recover the drive and never did get it to work, and I'm finally giving up the ghost because it's just not worth fucking with it any longer. But I figured I'd put this up here just in case you have better luck with it than I did. I had a hard time, in my initial search, finding a good listing of Linux software to use to try and recover an NTFS partition that has accidentally been reformatted. Maybe somebody will stumble across this page in a similar search someday, and find TestDisk as a result.
Again, it didn't work for me -- but it looks like a solid piece of software, and it's worth a shot. (Unlike EaseUS, which is a piece of crap you should not waste your time with.) Good luck.