I have an assortment of USB thumbdrives, which I use often on a few different Windows 7 machines. Occasionally, when I insert one or the other of them, Windows will completely mis-identify it--I'll insert a Sandisk Ultra, say, and Windows will act as though it's a Kingston DataTraveler. Typically when this happens, Windows will also pop up the dialog box telling me I need to format the drive before I can use it. Canceling this dialog (of course!) and ejecting/reinserting the thumbdrive typically then results in Windows identifying it correctly and giving me normal access to the files on it.
After my heart rate settled out the first time it happened, I came to the conclusion that I'd inserted the thumbdrive in some odd fashion that led to Windows reading the device ID wrong from the firmware. It occurred to me just now, though, that perhaps it's a symptom of some sort of impending failure. The particular thumbdrive for which it happened most recently is only about six months old, though I use it daily.
So: Could this sort of mis-identification of a thumbdrive be an indication of impending failure?