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I have a USB HDD that was disconnected from a computer in an improper way. Since than, connecting this disk to any computer has almost no effect: the only thing that changes is the HDD's blue LED that turns on. The computer sees nothing. I tried this on several computer under Win XP and under Ubuntu. The HDD is Verbatim model #53001, 320GB

What can I do in order to access the data on the HDD?

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The first thing I would check is if the drive is physically recognized. dmesg | tail -f then plug it in on Linux, or check device manager on Windows. It may be that the partition table got corrupted, causing the OS to see no partitions, or the drive may have bigger problems. – Michael Kjörling Jun 21 '11 at 12:13
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Usually a USB hard drive is simply a standard hard drive in an enclosure. You could potentially disassemble the USB drive and connect the bare drive up inside your computer and see if it is detected or usable there.

There's a nice guide to what to do in this eventuality here: How to recover the USB hard drive which is not recognized by the PC

There are several guides on youtube that walk you though installing a hard drive in a computer, but just to test the drive you can skip the actual mounting of the hard drive and simply connect it up. I'd recommend putting a piece of cardboard underneath the hard drive to prevent it shorting against anything.

Short of opening up the PC there are also several adapters for hard drives which allow connecting the drive directly to a USB port. These can be useful for several reasons and I always have one handy. However this option involves a small cost (and the time to go get it) unless you can find a friend who happens to have one.

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+1, my thoughts exactly! – LaLeX Jun 21 '11 at 7:52
Would have done the same thing. USB enclosures can just die without any obvious reason. All you need to check is if the internal drive has the same connection type as the PC you're connecting it to (e.g. SATA). – slhck Jun 21 '11 at 7:56
And once it's in the computer, run Spinrite on it to fix most problems. – Charlie Sep 29 '11 at 14:30

It sounds to me like the partition table is gone, so the computer is seeing the physical device, but can't find any volumes to mount. I'd see if I can see it in the disk partitioning tool on your computer (Disk Administrator or fdisk), and if so, create a new partition, format it, and see if that makes the disk recognisable again.

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If after having checked USB enclosure, you still have problems and suspect a corrupt partition table, open source TestDisk is worth a try.

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