Windows only: DriveLook, a free utility from the makers of the ultra-handy DriveImage XML, scans your hard drive and searches for strings of text to save your lost data.
The app initially starts as unlicensed, somewhat disabled software, but you can grab registration information from the DriveLook page. It's not super-intuitive where you enter your search terms, but it's in the box at the bottom, one per line. You can get more specific with the variables up top, but if you know the words from a Word file are hanging around somewhere on your drive, just type in a few words you remember from it, and hit "Start." That's when you'll be asked to choose where DriveLook, er, looks:
As you can see, you can look not only in your physical drives, but removable drives and even disk images, like the kind you might make in DriveImage XML. When DriveLook gets to work, it'll be somewhat of a drive-slower, as you might expect, but it's cool to see in real-time what it's finding:
I'd show off a finished result page here, but DriveLook has been running all morning on a spare system. So don't launch this and expect to finish up your World of Warcraft session in the meantime, but consider giving it a go overnight, or during a stretch away from the computer. DriveLook is a free download, with registration information available on the app's download page. For tips on using its complementing backup software, check our guide to hot-imaging your PC's hard drive with DriveImage XML.