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After I use the 'Safely Remove Hardware' notification area widget, how do I get Windows to re-attach a USB device (i.e. a USB drive) without having to unplug and plug it in again?

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Check the RescanDevices (zip file) tool at this Drive Tools for Windows page.

When an IDE or SATA drive has been prepared for safe removal it can be braught back by a scan for new hardware. That's what this tool initiates.

It is a non interactive, invisible Windows application.
It does the same as Microsoft's tool DEVCON when called with parameter 'rescan'.

There are some other good notes and tools at that page.

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Gave this a go and it doesn't seem to do anything. I also downloaded the MS DEVCON tool and devcon rescan doesn't re-attach the drive. – Kev Aug 29 '09 at 16:11
I had a different problem: after a while, my windows 7 failed to see my external usb drive, which was still plugged in. The RescanDevices tool found it in a matter of seconds, but I wonder why did the problem occur in the first place. – Chiffa Oct 13 '13 at 20:02

Try to go to device manager, disable USB driver, wait a few seconds then enable it again.

Also check this article.

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Answered it on Server fault a while ago! my answer was -

If you use eject instead of safely remove, it unmaps the drive and kills all open handles (and displays the popup saying it is safe to remove), however the device is still present. You can then go to device manager and disable followed by enable the flash drive, and it should remap itself.

I can not guarantee, but I assume the same should work for safely remove - however if it does actually remove the device, you should be able to re add it by going to device manager, right clicking on the computer object and click scan for new hardware.

You can also try a utility called DEVCON

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Or just uninstall the USB device in the device manager - the run 'scan for hardware changes'

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