External USB HDD not recognized

Lenovo / 7650dhu
May 14, 2010 at 18:08:43
Specs: Microsoft Windows XP Professional, 1.729 GHz / 3062 MB
Hello.. I'm still trying to figure out if this is a
hardware problem or a partitioning problem.

I have a 320GB external USB hard drive.. was
working fine until recently. It is now

It does NOT show in My Computer.
It does NOT show up in Disk Management.
It DOES show up in Device Manager (both in
Disk Drives and also in USB as a mass
storage device.) Here it says the device is "working properly"

When powering up, it makes a whirr-whirr-click
a couple of times then I hear the bing-bing as
USB connected and see the 'safely remove
hardware' icon in the system tray.

Most data recovery software that I have tried
thus far do not see the drive at all. The Easeus
software sees the drive and "Raw Data" but it's
all empty. Another software program saw the
drive but again thought it was empty.

Something keeps making me think it's a
partitioning problem or something like that, but
I don't know enough about partitioning to know
for sure.

Does this look like a hardware problem?
If not, then is this something I can fix myself using the right recovery software? I absolutely need the stuff on this drive but I don't want to pay a gazillion bucks to get it back. ..
Thanks in advance.. Tracy

See More: External USB HDD not recognized

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May 14, 2010 at 19:55:40
If you have access to another computer, try that.

If not then you might try booting to a live linux cd such as linux mint 8, Fedora or other. They should dispel the issue of software. If both linux and windows fail to work then we might assume the drive has failed.

Some live cd's have tools that may help. Partedmagic has some tools like photorec and testdisk.

Playing to the angels
Les Paul (1915-2009)

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May 15, 2010 at 07:15:59
There are two hardware components in question here. First is the USB enclosure, which should appear in device manager. I haven't actually tried this but I would guess that hardware would be configured even if no hard drive were present.

The second component is the actual hard drive.

Your problem sounds like a file system issue. I don't know why recovery programs wouldn't see the drive under those conditions though.

If you absolutely, positively must recover the data but don't intend to use a professional then I suggest this. Buy another hard drive at least 320GB and install it internally. Use cloning software to clone the entire external to the new drive. Set the external aside for the time being and experiment with the cloned drive.

If all that is wrong with the drive is a corrupted partition table, which is my suspicion, you could try using testdisk to reconstruct the partition/s. Read the tutorials thoroughly BEFORE attempting to use testdisk so you know what you are doing. Get testdisk at the link below.

If you can install an internal drive because your computer is a laptop, or there is a drive size barrier then use a compatible computer to perform the above operation.


BTW, most file system corruption is caused by improper removal of the external device.

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May 15, 2010 at 18:50:58
Hey.. Thanks for your quick replies..

Well I am working on a laptop, and it's all laptops in this
household so I don't have access to desktop.. And yes I did
try it on the other laptops, running Vista and Win7, where
mine is XP (first thing I tried) with the exact same result.

Ok so. OtheHill: I also suspect it's a partitioning issue.I also think this is how it happened.. Pretty much anyone on other tech sites insisted that this was irrelevant and
some even made me feel kinda dumb for suggesting this, so I stopped even mentioning it, BUT what did happen is, it
accidentally was still plugged in and powered up when I
booted the computer, the computer tried to boot from the
disk.. I got an error on the computer (can't remember offhand) turned
off the disk and and then rebooted and didn't get that error
anymore. But quite possibly I may have panicked and
powered it off at the wrong time I can't remember... Honestly I
think that is what caused the problem. Too much of a
coincidence that the disk worked fine before that happened.

Ok so yes I already tried Testdisk. .. testdisk sees the disk
but sees it as 2199 GB not 320GB. And it warns that "Disk
capacity must be correctly detected for a successful
recovery. If a disk listed above has incorrect size, check HD
jumper settings, BIOS detection, and install the lastest OS
patches and disk drivers."
So anyway, I just told it to analyze anyway. And it just came
up with Read Error on the partition (as there was no partition

I will use a professional if I have to, but if it's something that I
can just use some software to fix it (like testdisk for example)
I'd hate to pay!. I've sent out a few requests for estimates; one
says $50-100, another says $700-$1500 !!.. (like are you
joking?!) With a price difference like this, how can I not think
I'm getting ripped off?

If you advise I should get someone else to do it, like if you
think I'm playing with fire by messing around with it and might
totally wipe it, then I will take your advice.

Thx... Tracy

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Related Solutions

May 15, 2010 at 20:06:03
Well, I don't know what would cause the drive to be seen as 2199GB. Possible that the external enclosure could be the problem. Do you have another enclosure?

The $50-100 estimate is probably a low ball price based on using testdisk or similar and not really performing a conventional recovery.

Is the external a 3.5" A.C. powered unit or a 2.5" USB powered unit?

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May 15, 2010 at 20:50:50
Possibly a dumb question, but are you sure the drive doesn't show in Disk Management? External drives will be at the very bottom and you may need to scroll. It doesn't make sense that the drive would show in device manager but not in Disk Management.

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May 16, 2010 at 13:28:03
Hi All
Elena... ReclaiMe was one of the first things I did try and no,
it doesn't see the disk at all either.
OtheHill - it's an AC powered unit. And no, it doesn't show up
in Disk Management. Only the CD/DVD drive and the C drive
show there.
From what I've read thus far, the external enclosure is a good
possibility, as it was suggested a few weeks back when I first
started digging for this solution. It was suggested to open it
up and attach it to either another enclosure or another
computer. Or also the possibility it was loose. I opened it and
made sure everything seemed to be tightly connected to the
board. I was/am too afraid to touch anything beyond that. I did
just buy a new HD waiting to get the data onto it but again, I
don't want to void my warranty by
opening it up to try attaching it to that one.. besides it's a different brand so I don't know enough to know if it would wreck it or even attach at all.

I just got an email from a company from who I was requesting
an estimate .. this is what he said:

"When a Hard Drive clicks like that, it means that the drive
head can no longer detect the start of the disk and where the
partition is written, so the whole arm begins to start smacking
against the the spindle (middle of disc)...causing those
clicks....this could happen for one of two reasons...either a
bad circuit board, or bad physical disk. The only two possible
ways to fix this, is to have the drive professionally opened in
an air-tight facility so that the disk and be put into an existing
case of the exact same model of HD and turned back on. If
not the disk has to be analysed with a type of raw scanner
which will attempt to extract the data. These services are
highly, highly expensive.

You can keep trying with a luck of the draw approach, by
turning the drive off an on and if you get lucky, the drive might
start up once more. If that happens you'd want to recover the
data immediately.
Whatever you do, make sure you never open this HD yourself.
This will render your data useless"

I'm soooo confused. !!!

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May 16, 2010 at 13:42:47
And, maybe a dumb question too, couldn't that click click
looking for the "start of the disk where the partition is written",
also be caused by a damaged/missing partition that it is looking for? as
opposed to a hardware issue?

So I still don't know if it's hardware or partition.

Hey I might be wrong but my instinct still thinks it's a partition
problem. IMO it would be strange to be a hardware issue, as I
rarely use this disk, its about 3 years old I've probably used it
total only 15x at the most, for backups.. and in my house
which is a clean environment. I've never dropped it or bumped
it. And also, it was just fine until I made that mistake of
plugging/unplugging at the (very) wrong time.

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May 16, 2010 at 13:58:28
(Holy Crap do I talk a lot or what?)
I just read something, sounds weird but I'll try it later. If it indeed
is a hardware problem (which I don't think so anyway) .. people
are saying they put their drive into the freezer overnight and then
hook it up and I guess it pushes some things back into place,
platter, arm whatever (?) (it was explained but I don't remember
or care) but doing that they got the disk to stay up long enough
to pull the data off. .. Hmm, well ok.. can't hurt I guess.

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May 16, 2010 at 23:01:50
Freezing a hard drive is done when the drive is no longer rotating. That doesn't sound like your problem.

I am sure you don't want to hear this, but now you know the importance of backing up files.

The link below may help identify the problem.


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May 17, 2010 at 06:19:14
Oh Yeah.. believe me I know.. I've been kicking myself from
the moment it wouldn't come up.. It never occurred to me at
the time that I would need a backup for the backups. Now I
know. :(

Thanks for the link. Excellent. I'll listen to them all later. I
have to open the case again to see what brand the actual
drive is; I forget. Even if my brand is not listed I may be able
to identify a similar sound.

I'm also going to take it to a Computer Nerd today at the
electronics store. I was telling him last week about the
problem and he said he'd take a look.
Then later I'll come back and listen to those wav files.

Thanks again.. will update later.

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May 17, 2010 at 10:51:03
Just dropped it off today to a techie...He is going to take a look
and give me a free estimate...by end of week. I'll check back in
here then and let you know what he says.
(and also I'm going to listen to all those sounds on the website.)
Thx again ..ttys

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