As far as I know there's no way to recover without the original file.
This isn't going to help you, and you won't like hearing it, but it is NEVER safe to work directly from a removeable drive, as you've just seen demonstrated. You should always copy files from the removeable media to the hard drive before editing, and back again when you are done, and it's a really good idea to have a backup system in place so you don't wind up with total losses when the unexpected happens (and it can happen any time). I back up all my data nightly using a drive image program, and I save new versions of files as I work each time I start an editing session or reach a major change point, adding a version number to the file name. If the most recent version is destroyed, at least I can go back to the previous one, or go back when the client says, "you know.... I like the way it looked last Thursday better."
As Peter says, you're out of luck but it doesn't have to happen again.
I wrote this a while back and it's worth spending a few minutes to read it: http://boblevine.us/why-i-always-save-files-in-dropbox-and-why-you-should-too/
Thank you both for the feedback!
As I feared, then - I have advised her to start using a version control system such as subversion to avoid this happening again.
subversion in the ranks is a dangerous thing to encourage.
Actually, I'm not familiar with version control when dealing with InDesign or Photoshop or the likes - I'm familiar with it for version control of code, but perhaps it would be a mistake to use subversion with the large, binary files generated by these applications? Perhaps there's a more suitable alternative for binary files - or maybe I should just recommend dropbox as suggested by Bob.
Windows has a pretty basic backup system of it's own. I'm not sure if it will work on an External Hard Drive though...
Sorry. That was a little attempt at humor that seems to have gone awry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subversion
I see that Subversion, with a capital S, is actually a version control software package. I think that's probably overkill -- I just do a Save As and change the file name from ProjectName working 1 to ProjectName working 2 and continue. The big thing is to have a backup. I currently use Storage Craft's Shadow Protect because it can read and write to just about anything (like a USB external drive), even for recovery when you have no OS installed to map the drives, and I used to use Acronis TrueImage, but it wasn't quite as versatile. Norton makes a product too, I think.
And as Eugene mentioned, Windows has a built-in backup system, which I haven't used. I think it may actually be Acronis. I believe it is compatible with an external hard drive.
perhaps it would be a mistake to use subversion with the large, binary files generated by these applications? Perhaps there's a more suitable alternative for binary files - or maybe I should just recommend dropbox as suggested by Bob.
For home use, I use Dropbox, and at work in a Win2008/Win7 environment we use volume shadow copies. If you set up your initial computing environment correctly, you can get exhaustive, frequent backups without even thinking about it.
Subversion is overkill here, and is not the right tool for the job. It's probably workable, but more effort than it would be worth (unless your user is going to throw a toddler-style fit if asked to do things like "name the file with a meaningful name and the most recent revision date" or "manage files in an Explorer/Finder window").
And w/r/t Eugene's comment - it seems that if the external drive uses NTFS then you can have it store shadow copies. Never tried it myself but a quick search indicates that it's not hard to set up.
Thank you all for the feedback! I was considering Subversion (with a capital S ) because I use it extensively myself, but also only work regularly on code and rarely wish to version control large binary files.
I've always heard that the performance of Subversion should be poor with binary files, but a Google search (and http://subversion.apache.org/faq.html#binary-files) suggests otherwise (actually, pixelnovel offers a Subversion plugin for Photoshop). I'll let her decide - Dropbox or Google Drive should be perfectly usable, TrueImage or shadow copies are probably overkill.
Again, thank you all for the quick replies.
I simply cannot support the idea that Subversion is less overkill-y than shadow copies. Spoken like a true developer, Steve. But that plugin looks like it cranks the degree of kill back to reasonable & supportable levels.
TrueImage or shadow copies are probably overkill.
I guess you've never had a hard drive fail or some piece of malware wipe out your OS.
I even have used the backup image on occasion to get rid of some stupid mistake that just won't fix. Shadow Protect images my 300 gb system partition in about an hour for a full image, less than 15 for the incrementals, and I can restore the drive just as it was, fully customized, in under two hours, including the time it takes to install the replacement. No way you can do that from installer disks.
My data drive is 1 TB and a bit over half full at the moment, and it images at comparable speeds. It start around midnight every night, and it's finished long before I start work in the morning.
Shadow Protect lets me restore the entire drive, or mount any image as a mapped drive from which I can copy selected files.