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I have an external maxtor hard drive that uses USB that I have been using for a couple years now, today I plug it in to get some files and all of a sudden none of my PC's recognize it, they all say that I need to format the drive before I can use it, does this mean all my files are gone? I am using windows xp and windows 7

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use TestDisk to fix partition table.

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Plu-ussss 1 to that. It's a great tool and has saved me more than once after playing with things I shouldn't have played with. – Kez Sep 11 '09 at 20:04
certainly up to the task. right on par with Partition Table Doctor (a commercial application). – Molly7244 Sep 11 '09 at 20:21
I just tried this but it didn't seem to answer or solve anything in my case – JasonDavis Sep 11 '09 at 20:48
then the drive might be deeper trouble. did you remove the drive from the enclosure and connect it internally? – Molly7244 Sep 11 '09 at 21:47

You first need to crack open the case (probably void the warranty) and then slap it in a computer to see if it's the usb controller board to IDE/SATA or if it is indeed the drive.

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That shouldn't be the first step, there are plenty of things to try first. – MDMarra Sep 11 '09 at 19:43
One can spend hours doing check disks etc... why not take the 5 minutes and plug it directly into the computer? – RateControl Sep 11 '09 at 19:47
you don't crack things open, slap 'em or void warranty unless you really have to. you carefully open the enclousre, remove the drive and connect it to an internal controller. – Molly7244 Sep 11 '09 at 19:52
If the drive is still being detected, but the volume is showing up as RAW, it is almost never an enclosure problem. A check disk doesn't take hours to run. And many times external HDDs from WD, Seagate, Maxtor, etc aren't made to be opened and put back together, so a lot of times the clips securing them never fit quite right when you go to put everything in its place again. Taking something apart shouldn't be done until the troubleshooting steps that can be done while a component is whole have been exhausted. – MDMarra Sep 11 '09 at 19:55
I disagree with MarkM on this--the controller could be returning bad data making Windows think it's unformatted. I have seen this and had the disk work fine out of the enclosure. – Loren Pechtel Sep 12 '09 at 1:35

You know, Maxtor has a free utility called PowerMax (available at that lets you run various tests on your drive till it identifies the problem.

You might want to try that out first and see if it narrows it down.

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I checked it out, seems all there programs are for newer versions then mine – JasonDavis Sep 11 '09 at 20:48

Assuming the drive is E:

Open a command prompt (start > run > cmd) and type chkdsk e: /r

This will run a check disk and try and repair any bad clusters found on the volume. This is the easiest and least invasive thing to try.

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I tried this and I get "Cannot open volume for direct access" – JasonDavis Sep 11 '09 at 20:33
Try doing this in safe mode. There may be an application trying to maintain a handle on the drive, which would cause chkdsk to fail. – MDMarra Sep 11 '09 at 20:49
If Windows can't determine the format of the drive, you won't be able to read the directory structure or run chkdsk on it using Explorer or the command prompt. You need a third-party tool to bypass Windows and access it directly. – Kez Sep 11 '09 at 22:55
Cannot open the volume for direct access is different than the volume being RAW. IF it's RAW then chkdsk won't help, but we haven't determined the condition of the drive yet. I've personally run chkdsk against drives exhibiting the same symptoms and have recovered the data. – MDMarra Sep 11 '09 at 23:29

Doing some searching I came up with some interesting stuff. At least one person said to disconnect the device and plug it back in (while machine is up), of course make sure you have XP SP2, but one is talking about a third party device driver usually spyware doctor. They advise to remove 'ikhlayer.sys', but I would exhaust other options first.

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First back it up to keep it from unnecessary stress use something like Raptor it works very well. Make a DD image and you can use Mount image pro to mount it then run data recovery tools on it like GetDataBack. When that is done if you want you can either format and run diagnostic tools on it or run Spinrite on it to see if you can get it back to a usable state.

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Use some data recovery software to recover the data from the drive. I've used GetDataBack, which is made by a company called Runtime Software. There are two different editions of it, one is GetDataBack for NTFS, and the other is GetDataBack for FAT. (I will be referring to it as GDB from here on)

You probably want to use GDB for FAT, since (especially if you bought it a few years ago), external storage devices are usually formatted in FAT32 or exFAT.

With GDB, there are four or five steps to the process (there's a wizard... you just answer a few simple questions about your drive and click next). The first couple of steps only take a minute or two; but you have to wait like 20 minutes for the third or fourth step; and the final step usually takes hours. Just let it run overnight.

Whenever you're recovering data from a hard drive using recovery software, DO NOT copy the data back onto the same drive. You absolutely MUST put it on a different hard drive, or else you'll end up over-writing the data you're trying to recover.

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