1. TechSpot is dedicated to computer enthusiasts and power users. Ask a question and give support. Join the community here.
    TechSpot is dedicated to computer enthusiasts and power users.
    Ask a question and give support.
    Join the community here, it only takes a minute.
    Dismiss Notice

External HD won't show up on PC

By mooseknuckle21 · 39 replies
Jan 29, 2011
Post New Reply
  1. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +183

    One last train of thought that occured to me

    I was thinking about your symptoms again...

    1. On Vista, under DevMgr, we know USB Mass Storage device appears with no yellow icons when you plug the drive in. (Is same true on Win 7? - i'll assume yes)

    2. Once USB Mass Storage device is OK, next step on simple USB ext. disks is Windows detects the Mass Storage Device Type for the hardware=Disk, then it detects the disk filesystem, and loads a Disk driver (which would appear under Disks in DevMgr). (fyi.. e.g. USB CD/DVD drives are another type of USB Mass storage type)

    3. So now i'm thinking your extra devices (USB Composite and DMI) are both for the button so let's ignore those for the moment

    4. If the filesystem on your ext drive is corrupt, Windows can't load your disk driver (which would also have nothing to do with those extra button devices)

    5. Sooo... try TestDisk which attempts filesystem/data recovery. If TestDisk detects the ext drive, see if TestDisk can repair the filesystem for data recovery. I've never used TestDisk myself but suggested it to many people most of whom reported good results

    I think TestDisk is your next best step. fyi... If the filesystem is in fact corrupt, connecting it as slave still won't work. The filesystem would still need to be fixed. See if TestDisk can detect and recover for you. I'll keep my fingers crossed

    /* edit */
    And HERE's the step-by-step

    If TestDisk doesn't help, then you're probably best to remove the drive from the ext. case and connect it directly as slave or via USB adapter cable or enclosure
  2. mooseknuckle21

    mooseknuckle21 TS Rookie Topic Starter

    So just to clarify a little bit. The MSI laptop running windows 7 doesn't make the "ding-dong" sound like there is new hardware found. I can however see the drive under DevManager under "other devices." I cant do anything to the device or open it, its like having the same problem that I am having on the desktop.

    As for the Knoppix I am going to go ahead and try that to start off with tonight when I get home from work. Unless you believe I should skip that and go ahead and just try the TestDisk first. I'll let you decide :).

    The filesystem being corrupt was my biggest worry when i plugged the ext drive into my laptop. I am probably savvy enough to take the drive out of the enclosure and hook it up as a slave, but i really hope that would be a last ditch effort type of thing. And also connecting it that way wont do any good if the filesystem is corrupt as you stated.

    As for your question about Win7 and Device Manager you are correct. It displays the USB Composite Device and USB Mass Storage Device under the USB controllers just like the desktop running vista does.

    Here is a little bit of new information that might help, but I am not sure. So as I told you in the PM i brought my ext. drive to give my sister some family videos and photos. Well she has a Seagate ext drive (i believe its Seagate, has a black and orange casing) that I had plugged in at the same time I had my external HD connected to this computer. Her drive works just fine, but a day and a half later my drive stopped working. Do you think that maybe having both drives connected at the same time could have had any influence on this situation?

    Ill get started on that Knoppix and TestDisk. A friend had suggested I connect the drive as a slave and run a program like Get Back NTFS Data or something like that. But with 400gbs of data wouldn't that take forever to search and move? If it would work though I might be open to doing it.
  3. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +183

    just a quick post for now.. i'll provide more info later..

    Skip the Knopix CD. Based on all we know at this point i'd try TestDisk next. You may still need to ultimately remove the disk, but worth trying TestDisk first to see if you can avoid it. (If TestDisk doesn't help, can still try one other thing before you remove the disk from enclosure)

    re: Get Data Back NTFS, from what i recall is a good tool but TestDisk is essentially the freeware version of it. TestDisk is probably a bit more work (in setup and instructions) but is free. Tho if i remember correctly Get Data Back will tell you (for free) if it finds anything. It just won't do any recovery until you buy it

    Re: Two USB drives
    That shouldn't make any difference. What does often cause filesystem corruption: If you remove a USB drive without first stopping it (using either Safely Remove Hardwar icon and Windows tells you the drive is STOPPED. That tells Windows to not try writing to the drive anymore. If Windows is updating the filesystem at the moment you remove the drive, you can corrupt it)

    If Windows Safely Remove says it can't stop the drive, one can close all applications and windows to make sure something like File Explorer doesn't still have the drive in use. Otherwise, if it can't be STOPPED one should shutdown the computer first before unplugging an ext disk
  4. mooseknuckle21

    mooseknuckle21 TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Good information to know. I was reading up on how TestDisk works and I think I might be able to handle it. Is there anything you can recommend I should or shouldn't do while in TestDisk?

    I"ll try it in the morning and I will post back what I find.
  5. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +183

    TD is generally straight forward, i think. There are a couple "cross-checks" you might look for before you decide to tell TD to commit recovered changes to the disk (see example below) If you have a spare USB flash drive you can also play with it first. Use a partition manager (i like EASUS Partition Master freeware) to delete the partitions on the USB flash drive. Then use TestDisk to recover it

    This would be a "simple" recovery case but still give you some idea. ("Simple" in this case as TestDisk only need recover a simple geometry of one basic partition that was was deleted). Other cases may include multiple partitions, extended partitions, etc. Tho i would think the question before comitting any changes: does the parition geometry/space recovered "add up" (make sense)

    Quick example, i have a 4GB flash drive currently formatted as a single partition. I used EASUS Partition Master to delete it. When i TestDisk does recovery, it shows me what it recovered.
    It recovered a single partition of size=7887852 sectors. (Disk sectors are 512MB). Multiply the two and we see its a single partition of 4,038,580,224 bytes (basically my 4GB) so looks right

    /* edit */
    Btw... Also note the display line that starts Disk /dev/sdb
    > That's the device name TD displays for the 4GB flash. It first appeared in an earlier menu too
    > Note in this menu (and even in earlier menu for this device name) TD should show you the correct (unpartitioned) disk size if everything is OK
    In this case it says 4040MB which, again, is consistent with a 4GB flash drive
  6. mooseknuckle21

    mooseknuckle21 TS Rookie Topic Starter


    So I attached what I see in TestDisk. I believe its the two partitions on the drive and the extra little partition I made awhile back. I also tried Get Back Data for FAT systems just because my friend has the actual program and not a trial version. It came up with two logical drives (NTFS formats) and one physical drive. So i take it I really am screwed now. How bout a professional solution? Is there a data recovery business worth taking a look at?

    Im about all out of ideas, id really hate to think 14yrs worth of everything I have down the drain.
  7. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +183

    1. There are many data recovery companies out there but don't really have any experience with any for a recommendation. (tho i also understand they're not cheap..but you;d be best to inquire yourself about any pricing info)

    2. When i look at your TestDisk screen shots
    > Yes, it finds 3 partitions. Thats good
    > Tho TestDisk says the drive is 320GB. (which is a problem, but want to make sure if you also think that's issue.. or you also saw something else?)

    I have a thought about cloning the raw disk to a different drive and attempting recovery from a different drive (may be worth a shot, if you want). Idea being not to attempt recovery on original drive if not sure it'll work (cause the size mismatch). A recovery attempt would write to the drive and could lose any chance at a "second try". This way, we might work off a clone. I'd need time to look at this option if you wanted to try.. .and you'd need a second large drive to try it

    /* EDIT */
    1) Hmmm.. Not so sure if moving a disk clone to another drive and then attempting recovery from the different drive would work or not (as i'm not sure if any difference in disk size or something else might make the disk geometry different so recovery would fail.

    2) That said, IN THEORY, you should be able to create a disk clone image of your ext drive, and then attempt recovery of drive and if it doesn't work be able to restore the backup image to your ext drive so you can be back where you started. (again, that's the way it SHOULD work but nothing is 100% sometimes)

    3) Was TestDisk also giving any geometry warning? Or is it just the disk size it presents is wrong? (320GB vs. you said should be 500GB?)
  8. mooseknuckle21

    mooseknuckle21 TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Yes the ext. drive I have should be 500gb with about 400gbs worth of data on it. I really wouldnt like to lose any of my data if possible. I understand though it may come to a point where I am only able to get a certain amount of data back, but id like that to hopefully come later than sooner.

    1. + 2.) I too had given some thought about disk cloning but I have no idea if cloning this bad drive will actually work and if we did try it I have no idea if we would be able to get back to step 1. I know a little about how that process works, but you would know more about the success rate of that happening.

    3.) I wasn't getting any type of warning at all. I didnt really play around too much. I tried disconnecting and unplugging and what not while I was using TestDisk, but I didn't fool around too much with the program. I didnt want to accidentally get into something I wasn't sure about.

    Yea I heard about some of the data recovery companies and them charging high prices. I think this may have to trump the high prices though. If it was something with just music and regular productions movies or something I might just say lets get back what we can. But I have movies of family members who have passed on and things of that nature. If it comes down to that point I might just drop the $$$ before taking a significant chance on losing the data. I am open and willing to all suggestions and alternatives.
  9. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +183

    Quick update... will post more later when i have the chance

    1. Cloning
    I was going to provide you instructions when i remembered (because my own cloning tools wouldn't let me!) you can't clone an ext USB drive. The drive would need to be internal to clone the raw drive. Let's defer that for now. Will talk more about cloning later

    2. Also, at this point, don't attempt recovery with TestDisk since it's not recognizing the correct disk geometry the results are unpredictable. Don't use TD for now

    3. GetDataBack
    I downloaded it to take a look. It's a pretty cool tool! I'll post more about it later as well. GetDataBack may still have potential

    /* edit */
    p.s. I would've connected the dots sooner between your drive problem and disk corruption except for those extra devices that appeared in Device Manager (which i now know support "push button" backup but was a red herring and through me off initially). But next time I see a drive with those types of devices in DevMgr, i'll know what they are! :D
  10. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +183

    I played with GDB NTFS.

    I first created a test case with a 40GB USB ext drive: I set it up such that it contained one unallocated partition plus 2 allocated partitions on the drive. I put data in each of the 2 allocated partitions and then deleted the 2 partitions so the disk showed itself as all unallocated (tho still not identical to your case, as your disk is now uninitialized/”raw” and not "unallocated").

    I ran GDB NTS with good result. Also about GDB i read on their product page
    > See HERE seems to say GDB NTFS is for Vista and Windows 7? I used the NTFS version for my test. Probably good for you to download and use it also?
    > ALSO, i read GDB is read-only (which is good!) So it won't modify your ext HD when it attempts recovery

    I ran GDB NTFS. I selected default settings, hit NEXT. It found two disks (my hard drive plus the USB ext). IMPORTANT: I had to select the USB ext drive itself (not the thing below it) for GDB to find the 3 partitions on the USB drive including all the data still on the drive
    I also noted GDB did report the disk size about right in this case at 37.3GB

    And even tho the sizes didn't seem right on the 3 partitions it found, when i used GDB to look at each one, it found all the data on the 2 allocated partitions.

    And even tho it was the trial version, i could open the Excel files it found on the drive and i could open them successfully.

    I think you should try GDB NTFS. Especially as they say its read-only, it shouldn't affect the ext drive image in any case
  11. mooseknuckle21

    mooseknuckle21 TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I am downloading right now. i didn't think the GDB for NTFS would work because I thought the ext. drive was formatted for FAT32. But as long as you think it will work I am down to try it. i will post back in a minute and let you know what I find


    Well I did the test run and it came back with my drive. But only 16bg's worth of data (if im reading that correctly). Heres what i saw

  12. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +183

    GDB is only showing one physical drive. I would expect it to show two (one being your internal hard drive and other the ext drive). Look back at my own example screen shot

    Is the physical disk it shows your internal HD??? i would think so tho in that case your external HD is not being detected??

    /* edit */
    Do you have 300 GB internal drive??

    /* EDIT */
    OH! I'm sorry, i didn't pay close enough attention to your TestDisk image when you said it was your ext drive :( I just looked back at that snapshot again. TestDisk is ALSO only listing ONE drive ( /dev/sda ) That must be your internal drive. I don't think your ext is being detected by either TD or GDB. :(

    So you may have no choice but to remove it from the case and attach it directly
  13. mooseknuckle21

    mooseknuckle21 TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Wow it was like you read my mind. I was thinking about this at work today and I was thinking about the device manager and they were all showing 3 parts of one drive like you said. I was confused why the ext. drive would show up as part of the desktop HD anyways.

    The extra little part. you see is an allocation I made when I first got the computer. It came with some encryption type software and I wanted to see how well it worked and just never got rid of it when i was done.

    I figured it wasnt a good thing when my buddy had BSOD's all the time with his int. drive and GDB found his drive and also got back all his data. Then again he did have it hooked up as a slave drive to the computer. At this point I think we've exhausted about all we can do. Unless you can think of anything else I believe I'll just take the HD out of the case and connect it as a slave drive. I do have a couple questions about that process though.

    I think I will be able to get the HD out of the enclosure. If not im sure youtube will have a video or two about it. Once I do get it all setup will be able to further assist me in accessing the data on the drive? Or do I just connect it as a slave drive and hope I can open it? I havent hooked up a drive like that in a few years.

    All I have to do is put the jumpers on the drives, make sure the BIOS is using the right HD for the primary, and turn it on correct? Is there anything else that im missing?
  14. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +183

    Best thing to do next, I think, is create a new topic (thread) focused on where we are now. Example topic follows (create whatever topic you think is best descriptive)
    Need help converting USB external disk to internal. Then data recovery

    You can provide a link in the new post back to this thread for anyone curious about the history

    The new thread should get the attention of a new audience with relevant skills and I'll join the new thread also. One fyi i thnk: This lastest "twist" of events: where neither TD nor GDB can detect the ext drive, adds the possibility of hardware failure to the mix - either the drive enclosure failed, the disk failed, or both. :(

    You might also want to start making a few inquiries if just to find info on
    > If a data recovery professional around you (tho if you find someone good you should also be able to ship to them)
    > Ask what options for recovery are available under all this circumstance
    > Could they clone the current raw disk image (if disk itself physically failed, this may not be an option. Or ask is it?)
    > And, of course, how much they would charge

    Then you'll also have some idea of costs / approaches / tradeoffs when it comes time to make decisions

    /* EDIT */
    Others with more hardware experience may have additional things to point out. Re: moving ext. disk to internal
    > To start, it's important to see what type of connectors are on the enclosed disk (e.g. IDE or SATA)
    > Careful, when connecting or disconnecting disk, to not bend the pins
    > Haven't done much with SATA. But know for IDE, the pin layout imposes an "orientation" between the pins and a connector. If you look at the pins, you'll find one empty spot with no pin, just solid plastic.. This one empty spot forces the pins and their connectors to have a specific "orientation" when you connect them. (M/F pins and holes should line up. You shouldn't need to force them together)

    So be sure to check orientation between pins and connectors before trying to connect them and be careful to not bend pins (i.e. keep them straight)
  15. gunste24

    gunste24 TS Rookie Posts: 39

    Comment from a reader with the same basic problem: This type of problem seems to be prevalent,since it shows up frequently when one Googles the title problem.
    I searched for the same subject with drives in an Acomdata 509 to case (IDE/PATA drives)., since I had the same problem with two cases each containing a new WD1600AA JB drive, which I wanted to format. Neither was recognized on my Dell 740 with Windows XP-Home, or an iMac (OS10.5) or two Sony Vaio PCs running Windows 7. If someone responds to this, I have a complete history of everything tried.
    [Note: I have been a PC user for 30 years starting with DOS 1.0.]

Similar Topics

Add New Comment

You need to be a member to leave a comment. Join thousands of tech enthusiasts and participate.
TechSpot Account You may also...