Does anyone know where these files might have gone and how/if I can recover them? They were stored on an external hard drive
Bridge is a browser and can delete files to the trash on your command but not edit them in a way to destroy as you describe.
First check your trash can and do a search on your computer before you empty the trash. Then run a check on your external disk. CS3 is known as the worst Bridge version ever but this should not happen.
Can you specify more about OS version and what external disk (connection etc.)
Sadly, nothing in the trash. I'm running OS 10.6.8 on a 2.66 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo. THe external hard drive is a 250 GB, USB connected device. Apparently it's in MS-DOS (FAT32) format and made by iomega.
When I opened the folder in Bridge, the images all started to turn from thumbnails into green/grey rectangles and then vanished from the hard drive. What's also confusing is why the folder date was also amended to 1915.
I'll search the drive, but I'm pretty convinced that my files are gone.
Apparently it's in MS-DOS (FAT32) format and made by iomega.
Try someone with Windows to check this disk, I'm not very familiar with Windows and also not with the FAT32 formatting but although Mac can read and write this it also has data in max of 2 or 4 GB blocks as I always understood.
I never use these formats but maybe you need to exchange them with Windows?
And this will probably not help you now but I can't express enough the importance of having a prober back up, always.
It might be the case you have set export cache to folders as an option, otherwise Bridge only reads the data. Unless you use metadata adding or renaming, rating labeling nothing is being written to the files.